sadder than sad


please stop by to visit tash today. and if you can, send some love and sympathy her way at 4:45, the time of maddy’s birth.

ruby and i should be in the hospital, either getting ready to meet each other or getting ready to come home. she should be snuggled up in the rose-colored blanket i knitted for her while i was on bedrest, wearing a matching knitted cap to keep her li’l fontanel warm. she should be gripping one of my fingers as she nurses at my breast, which may or may not be producing milk yet, but which would be providing some form of sustenance and, at the very least, some emotional comfort. she should be crying through the night and being swaddled and shooshed by her now-expert-at-all-things-karp daddy. she should be soiling diapers and spitting up on me and wrapped in a sling around my torso. her big sister should be practicing her gentle touches and throwing temper tantrums because she doesn’t want to share her mom and dad, and learning to share her bedroom (if not her stuff) with her little sister. her grandparents and aunt and uncle and baby cousin should be preparing meals to bring over so s doesn’t have to do everything on his own. her long-distance friends and family should be showering her with love and us with well-wishes.

instead.

instead she is dead. her ashes are on our mantlepiece, still in the pathetic white cardboard box we received them in from the funeral home because we can’t find a more appropriate container that we actually like. her hand-knitted blanket is folded up underneath the box of ashes. next to the blanket and the box is the picture of ruby that we took with us to the compassionate friends annual memorial service, which was a different sort of misery.  ruby’s newborn clothes — all inherited from her big sister m — are still in m’s bottom dresser drawer, exactly where i put them last august in a fit of what i thought was excellent advance planning. her premie-sized knitted cap is being worn by her good luck totem, shackleton the jellycat penguin. shackleton and slim piggins, her good luck pig from her aunt and uncle, are sitting in the cradle in m’s room. her handmade quilt, which matches the one i made for s and me, is folded up in the bottom of the cradle.

it’s all part of the big mess that has become our lives since may 2007, when we moved 700 miles, bought a new house, i started a new job, and we found out ruby was coming.  i’m sure i’m wrong about this — please let me be wrong — but nothing has been good since then. we are struggling to make sense of our new lives. we are struggling to settle into our new house, our new city. we miss our friends, our old routines, the comfort of familiarity. i miss being happy. i miss me.

but today, more than anything in the world, i miss my little daughter. i miss the baby i should be holding and nursing and and and. i miss ruby.

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?

the timing on this is all wrong, since this is, by all rights, a february poem. but i find that the more i miss ruby this christmas the more i miss earl, and this poem was a gift to her from our dear friend and poet km. earl was delivered on the 21st of february, so today i remember her. my big girl. i miss you, sweet child, my first born.

Mid-Winter Grace

In February
the sky is brilliant blue and cold air,
sound travels faster: someone reports a chickadee calling from half a mile away.
Tress, undressed in this season, appear like the inside
of our lungs or a pocket of capillaries.
We belong to this place, our bodies modeled on earth,
or earth on body — who knows?

There is bodily loss and longing here
in the middle of winter,
the glory of a holiday worn off
and spring joy still too far ahead
to grasp: a hand always waving goodbye
but never actually leaving.

Consider, though, the cold air,
how it makes planes and birds rise faster
there’s more lift,
or less pull to earth.
And that sound of another calling out to you,
are you okay? take my hand.
It comes faster in February.

can’t top tash’s craptastic but can offer this gem of a x-mas card, seen two nights ago at target when i actually thought for a brief moment  (ha!) that i might get around to sending out holiday cards this year:

front: picture of cute little girl holding letter to santa and a puppy.

text:

jackie finally got the puppy she wanted. thank goodness santa didn’t screw up this year and bring her a baby brother.

 oooh, thank goodness.

the sad thing is if i’m left alone i think this is kinda funny, in a pathetic sorta way. but that feeling is fleeting, and i just get stuck on jackie’s good fortune, which should not be confused with the probably not-so-good fortune of her parents. and the real joke, the joke the writer likely did not even intend, the joke about the ease and simplicity of babies appearing.

neuroses exhaustion hormones grief:

today a colleague, walking down a set of stairs with me, said: “i bet i know a little girl who is about bursting with excitement at your house!”

now, i could have said “well, actually, she’s only 16 months old and she doesn’t really get it.”

or i could have lied said “oooh, she is! we are all feeling so festive and are counting the days ’til santa arrives!”

but no.

i told her that we don’t have a tree up. (even one in a cage.) or lights. (ok, s *did* hang one strand around our front window, which is quite lovely and i’m glad to have it up, but it isn’t the same as really decorating.) we have not shopped. there are no wrapped gifts anywhere in our house. i told her we are really grateful that m is so young because she doesn’t really know how seriously we are dropping the [hyped-consumerism] ball.

and she said, bless her heart, “oh, but you’ll make it a good day for her. i know you will.”

and i said “well, not really. none of us are very happy. we’re not looking forward to this holiday at all.”

the truths of the matter are this:

m will love simply being home with us for days on end. and she will enjoy spending time with her grandparents and her baby cousin e and her favorite aunt and uncle in the whole world. and she’s getting some great gifts from them, and they’ll create a festive atmosphere complete with the excitement of ripping open packages and gorging on holiday food and staying up late.

and we are very grateful that they are here and will do those things, because we can’t.

i should be big and fat and round and waddling and tired and hemorrhoidal and preparing to birth a beautiful baby who is supposed to come to us in the cold winter months and stay with us — living, breathing, playing, crying, pooping, biting, smiling — for a long, long time. instead, i am trying (and failing) to find a christmas ornament in her memory. because i don’t feel like i can commemorate her with a stupid decoration, i don’t want to decorate at all.  i am trying (and failing) not to be so, so angry at all the healthy living babies people around me people are gushing about. because i am angry i am tense and my head hurts and my mouth is dry and i want to curl in a ball and sleep until 2009 and i am afraid to talk to people because they want to show off pictures of their children and grandchildren with santa and it’s all i can do to say to them “hey, idiot, remember me? the woman whose infant daughter just died?”

i want to hold and treasure m, and i do: i spend every waking moment with her holding her in my lap or cuddling her. and she is ecstatic about this. but i do not want to celebrate. not a goddamned thing.

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when you run your url through this site it will not only rate your blog, it will tell you what terrible/wonderful things you did to earn your rating.

my sins? i wrote “death” five times, “dead” three times, and “bitch” once. i’m pretty sure i meant to say “bitch” more than once — god knows i’ve thought it more than once. and what about “whore”? “whore” seems to me to be a bad word. sure as hell isn’t angel, anyway. but it doesn’t even make it onto the list of naughty things i’ve said. maybe i’ve been wrong all along, and whore isn’t a worse word than either “death” or “bitch.” (i’m pretty sure that the little tool does not account for context, so i doubt that the censors excuse me just because i use the word when talking about a toddler’s shoe preferences.)

i’m fascinated by three different bits of the algorithm of grammar implied by this tool.

first: can’t these tools do more than simply count? back when i had only said “dead” 3 times i was pg-13. i am not lying. what good are all of our technological advances if they can’t even give us a good look at one of the tools that all of use every day just to stay alive? or at least to stay human. (or am i misremembering my fourth-grade science, that language is one of the things that sets us apart from other mammals, or at least from other mammals with opposable thumbs?) ok, what i really want to ask is “why are these tools so dumb?”

second: when you describe something terrible, as long as you use nice words, well, then what you’re saying must be nice, right? because we all know that meaning is always explicit and language is always transparent. and bad words live in the ether, or our minds, or our mouths, as bad words, and good words are always good words. no mixing and matching. no subtlety, for chrissakes.

third, and something that deadbabymommas everywhere know: death and dead are terribly bad words. they are scary. and people should be protected from them. and should shun women who use them too often, especially in public.

dead dead dead dead dead dead dead. two of my daughters are dead. their deaths sadden me. their deaths depress me. their deaths leave a pit in my stomach and make my breath catch in my throat. their deaths leave me with phantom-baby-sensations in my empty arms. their deaths terrify me and make me worry that the rest of my family will die and be dead and there is nothing i can do about it.

count that, f*cker.

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