January 2008

life at our house is a series of mundane activities that everybody moves through like automatons. and it’s more or less all my fault.

i am completely lifeless. i have been prescribed an antiemetic and an anti-nausea prenatal vitamin. i voluntarily went on the BRATT diet after staying home from work two days ago with a fever and the punies. last night i ate white rice and toast for dinner, and promptly threw it up. i’ve lost four pounds this week.

i don’t laugh at anything. i struggle to smile around m, even when she is giggling or sitting in my lap laughing. i can barely touch the dogs. i don’t find s’s jokes even remotely amusing (and sometimes they’re not, but i almost always laugh, at the very least, at his effort.)  i expend most of my energy trying not to vomit. what i have left, i spend trying not to pass out.

i’ve had morning sickness in each pregnancy that lasted longer than the first trimester, and it’s always been bad. it starts in the morning and gets progressively worse during the day. but i threw up only once with each of the girls, and each time it was very late in the first trimester; with ruby, it was in the second. i did not expect this, this time around. and i don’t know how to deal with it.

s is afraid it means we’re having twins. i’m afraid it’s going to kill me, or break us up, or destroy what little is left of my sanity. by the end of every day i have no idea how i’ll possibly make it through another 24 hours, let alone eight more weeks. even one day at a time seems completely unmanageable.

in my more dramatic moments i have thought it a good thing that we don’t keep guns in the house. in my less dramatic moments i hope to be medically diagnosed with dehydration so at least i can be hospitalized and s won’t be required to care for me while trying to feed and clothe and bathe and walk and play with the rest of the family.

but in my more sane moments i realize that this is it. i can’t possibly do this again. i am too old, too worn out, too emotionally wasted. a friend last fall told me she marveled at my ability to look despair in the face and say “fuck you.” these last few weeks, though, i’ve realized i don’t have that kind of fight left in me. despair, weariness, exhaustion: they have won. this is our last pregnancy. our last hurrah. our last stand. and i can barely begin to contemplate what that might mean.

s had a tough day on friday. he doesn’t work fridays, and he was home alone (unless you count the dogs and cats) from roughly 9-5. when m and i got home in the evening i found, much to my surprise, that the day’s dishes had accumulated in the kitchen, m’s toys from her post-breakfast play were still strewn about our living room, and our bed wasn’t made. very unlike the super-skilled SAHD i’d come to know and love…and rely on. without pointing out that something was obviously wrong because WHAT THE HELL HAD HE DONE ALL DAY???, i just asked s if he was doing ok. i dunno, he said. and the conversation was dropped.

later that evening, once dinner and bath and bedtime were over and we were settling in for a quiet evening of catching up on “the wire,” s came over and sat next to me on the couch. he put his arm around me and stared out the window, and said, very quietly, i can’t get excited about this pregnancy and i’m so sorry. i feel just awful. but i feel exactly like i did while you were on bedrest with ruby. i feel like i’m just waiting for our baby to die. he leaned his head on my shoulder and we cried, together.

he told me that he’d googled “deadbabymomma” and come up with a kajillion hits. then he googled “deadbabydaddy” and came up with nothing. NOTHING. where are the dads, he asked my soggy shoulder. where are the people like me?

where are they indeed? can anybody help my guy?

i want to share news of this pregnancy, and widely, but without imposing on anybody in unnecessary ways. i want to share pictures, and give psychological and emotional updates, but i don’t want to fill people’s e-boxes with my very own version of spam. how can i do this? why, by keeping a blog, of course.

so s and i have started a new blog, which you can find here. or at the bottom of my blogroll, in its very own category. it has only a few posts now, and is not (yet) super informative. i don’t plan on telling folks about it until we’re ready to share the news of the pregnancy, but i thought i’d start working on it now so that when we are ready to share it, whenever/ifever that is, there will be something to read. but i warn you: it will not be for the faint or delicate reader. there is a widget. there will be ultrasound photos. if we get anywhere with this pregnancy, there will be belly shots. there will be all kinds of things that there won’t be here, because i like my readers here and i don’t want to lose them because they don’t want to see pics. or hear regular/gooey/name-your-despised- adjective updates.

it is also going to be very public. it will be primarily for our friends and family, but now that includes you, too, so you can choose, as can they, whether you want to read it and how much you really want to know.

i will not discourage my readers here from reading there, but i will not tell my readers there about this blog, here. i need a place to talk without worrying. i need a safe place to vent, and to process, and to bitch, and to confess. so that’s the me you’ll get here.

as for the me you’ll get there? i’m not really sure. i don’t imagine i’ll be all happy-go-lucky. i guess we’ll learn who that person is, together. if you come over.

and if you don’t stop by? honestly, i can’t say that i blame you. i’m not sure i could, either.

well, not really, but i can’t get the song out of my head. but it’s more like “last night i dreamt // that somebody cut me….”

last night i dreamt that my old ob, dr h, needed to operate on me. so he set up me on the operating table, got all the tools and machines and ready, and then — hey! — left the room. in his wake he left a giant 21st-century-medieval circular saw-pendulum type instrument with a blade the size and shininess of a new cd. i realized as it came swooping down from my right side that he’d forgotten to anesthetize me. so i started squirming and twisting — with my hands tied down i was unable to actually get off the table — and for the next few interminable dream-hours i was squirming and twisting to avoid being sliced open. my most righteous indignation was about the drugs — if you’re gonna cut me open, at least KNOCK ME OUT first! when the machine finally started to rise back toward the ceiling and i relaxed, the bonds around my wrists were magically released. i sat up breathing hard, and looked around only to realize i was in my basement surrounded by loads and loads of unwashed laundry. i thought “screw it, i’m beat up and angry and i’m not doing laundry right now” and went upstairs to find my mother helping s with m’s dinner.

i guess that’s the funny thing about needing to dig. wanting to do it, doing it or not, it gets itself done. i’m in my basement needing to save myself from physical pain and damage while i also need to wash up and avoid my mother? yeah, right. i know.

no progesterone tested from tuesday’s blood draw. they’re all apparently still giddy over last week’s 51.6.

and my beta? 17,969. dr l likes it. i like it. the last time i had blood drawn around this time it was in the 14000s somewhere.

i’m still feeling a little emotionally flat, which has s worried. perhaps, however, it’s just off-setting my physically not-so-flat belly. which really, really, really wants some chocolate.

and my brain? it really, really really does not want to dig, although i truly do appreciate the suggestion, carlynn. for example: last fall i responded to a query for women to write up their stillbirth stories for a study. i tried. i hated what i wrote, decided to revise it and couldn’t, so decided to scrap the whole thing and gave up. then two weeks ago the lead researcher contacted me to say “hey, you know, if you didn’t send anything yet, you still can.” i said great! gimme a week and i’ll have something for you. i thought i was ready to give this another go. and every night i consider working on it. and every night i realize i can’t. so when she emailed this morning to politely ask where my materials are, i had to tell her: i can’t revisit this. i think i can and then i find out i’m wrong. i just can’t. (but everything’s fine, right?)

and while i write this i want to cry. so i guess i gotta go dig, like it or not. shit.

since m has been around people have been telling s & me what good parents/how calm we are. always the two things together. and for a long time (well, ok, she’s not even 17 months yet, so i guess not that long) i imagined that motherhood had “done” something to me — made me different somehow. better. calmer.

but it’s taken me this long to actually wonder if it’s not parenting a living toddler but missing two dead infants that has done something to me. and if that something isn’t calmer, it’s numb-er.

i’d like to claim calm — what a nice change that would be. and what a great payoff for the hard grief work i did after losing earl, and for learning to practice mindfulness, and to pay new and different kinds of attention to my mind and my body and their many relationships to each other. but i don’t think i can claim calm, yet.

this first hit me several months ago, reading one of tash’s posts. i don’t remember which one — i’ve revisited to check and am still not sure — but i remember thinking “holy shit this is one mad mama” and then realizing that i’m not as mad as she is and then wondering if i should be and what was wrong with me for not being more pissed off. but i was exhausted and m was sick and the holidays were approaching and i had just gone back to work and i really didn’t have it in me to be more mad. madder.

and then a variety of other things happened and i coped and i breathed and i remembered my pilates posture which helped get more oxygen to my lungs and brain and then i even lost a little bit of my belly’s ruby-weight and i thought so this is how it is, the second time around. i’ve already built my house of pain, and now all i’ve had to do is remodel a bit and add a room. i didn’t have to go out and interview architects and hire a contractor and pour the damn cement foundation myself, one lousy gallon of cement at a time. i know how to do this. it’s not easier this time, really, but it’s not as hard. somehow.

but then last sunday we went to our friends-the-inlaws (man oh man did i NEVER think i would EVER in my life say that, but i can say it and mean it now and i really like that) to watch the packers TROUNCE the giants. it was a home game, at lambeau field, in the bitter-freakin-midwestern cold: it was packer heaven. so sure were they to win that we had already made plans to drive 12 hours to spend superbowl weekend with friends of ours just to watch the packers play.

and from fairly early on the game it was evident that they were not going to win. they were outcoached. outquarterbacked. outreceived. totally, maddeningly, almost freakishly outplayed. before halftime i said, cavalierly, “oh, yeah, well, they’ll come back for the second half. it’s what they do.” at the end of the third quarter i said “awww, there’s plenty of time. fifteen minutes on the playclock is more like 45 minutes of air-time. there’s nothing to worry about.” in overtime, just as tynes went out to kick what would be the winning field goal, i said “he won’t make it.” and then he did. and the game was over. and the packers had lost.

then yesterday i realized that while i had been sitting calmly on the couch, m’s sleeping toddler-body curled around my shoulder and chest, s had been up and down, banging his head on the floor, yelling at the tv, throwing his hands in the air, dropping his head in his hands. he had been feeling the game we were watching. i, on the other hand, had been feeling something else. something, maybe, close to nothing.

in fact, i realized that i felt exactly the way i had felt after my water broke with ruby and i was put on bed rest. totally fine. everything would be fine. everything would work out. everything would be fine. just relax and love the baby. everything will be fine.

and it wasn’t. and it isn’t, although it is, but it also really, really isn’t. still, i can’t seem to quit saying it, and feeling it. everything is fine. (is everything fine?) then today, reading tash’s current post (aha! this one i can link to) i realized just how mad i am not. and i thought, for the first time, that maybe that’s not such a good thing. maybe i’m not calm, and practiced, and zen. maybe i’m numb. maybe remodeling the house and adding a room on the back isn’t nearly as fucking easy as i’ve been thinking it is.

the thing is, i don’t know. and i don’t know how to figure it out.

when i was in grad school i had a friend who told me he knew it was time to up his meds when he was reduced to tears by at&t commercials — you know, the “reach out and touch someone” ads with the catchy jingle and soft-edged images of loving children calling aging parents…that sorta thing.  he could barely stand to see, much less consider, such intensely desired human contact,  or the longing and affection that are implied by wanting to reach out, or even the idea that someone was there to be touched on the other end. it was just too much for him.

for my part, insensitive girl that i was, i thought crying over a television commercial was bathetic. i was also young and inexperienced enough in things that really matter that i thought meds were for fools who couldn’t get ahold of their lives. (i’ve learned, in mostly hard way(s), to stop being such a judgmental bitch.)

one of the ways i’ve learned this lesson is by going through the early roller-coaster days of pregnancy upwards of half-a-dozen times. in later stages, when my nausea is so unbearable that thinking about food makes me dry-heave, i am unable to watch shows like 24 or csi: anything with fast camera-cutting-action and bodily trauma (not to mention gore) sends my head and tummy spinning. but in these early stages? yeah, you guessed it: tv makes me cry.

over the weekend i could barely get myself out of bed, i was so weighed down with exhaustion and nausea. so i did something i hope will not become a habit (but which may, in which case i will have to learn, once again, not to be so damn judgmental): i hunkered down with m in front of the tv and watched movies — ones we’ve dvr’d and really need to erase but which i feel i should watch first. during the movie-fest m was content to play with me and occasionally glance at the action on the screen. but me? i was fighting tears the whole time.

it didn’t help that because i said so depicts countless scenes of a mother and her three beautiful, successful, happy daughters having a great time doing girly stuff: trying on clothes, going shoe-shopping, singing together in what was obviously a long-standing family tradition. when i wasn’t despairing because my relationship with my  own mother isn’t like that, i was feeling sorry for myself that two of my three daughters are dead. if they had lived, would we all grow up to actually have fun in dressing rooms instead of feeling anxious because we don’t like the way we look in the mirrors? would we really have enough joie de vivre to try on ridiculous, totally impractical shoes and imagine the kinds of places where we might want to wear them?

it didn’t matter, not one jot, that i understand the power of images and the pull of stereotypes and the simplicity of movie-life and that none of those things ever ever mirror our realities but instead play on them in mutiple ways designed to make us feel bad, mostly so we will change our lives by purchasing some sort of something. nor did it matter that i am so happy and even, dare i say it, relieved that i am NOT close to my mother, since i have learned over many sad and difficult years that it’s not that she doesn’t like me, per se, it’s that she doesn’t like women, and so there isn’t ever really any getting close to her and if you do, by chance, move in and decrease some of that space she will eventually make you pay for it in some public and painful way. nor did it help that i know my kid(s) and i will have our own traditions and ways of being happy together — nor even that m and i already have our own traditions and ways of being happy together. i could go so far as to remember that i don’t need to look forward to one day being nostalgic, i can enjoy what i have because in many ways it’s very, very good.

but i still cried. i couldn’t help it. i couldn’t intellectualize or joke or insult my way out of it.

and don’t get me started on the last holiday, when ll cool j flies from new orleans to prague to find queen latifah and tell her he loves her and wants to spend every last minute of her life with her, even though she is dying and they might only have a few days…and then they find out that she ISN’T dying and oh boy, hold the phone, but the tears fell fast and hard.

it’s strange to have so little control over my emotions, and to cry so easily, and to cry over things that are touching but so obviously contrived. but it’s hard, too. there is some comfort in the knowledge that it’s a great sign for me, that combined with the nausea and exhaustion it means the pregnancy is progressing well. and there is some comfort in the reminder that i have to remember that what my body is doing is beyond my control, that i have to let go and let my body do its thing. (there is not much comfort in the knowledge that sometimes what my body does is terrible and heartbreaking, but i’m learning to live with that, too.) but i guess for now i can cry at the movies and hope that that’s the worst thing i have to cry about for a long, long time to come.

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