for weeks i had been hoping to compose a brilliant and insightful and ever-so-slightly weepy post: the half-life of hope. the math is just so gorgeous: this is my eighth pregnancy. i’m hoping it brings my fourth delivery. and i’m hoping that delivery brings my second, fantastically living and breathing and healthy child.

i wanted to write about all the hope that comes with that math: my willingness to believe in good luck, at least for a few months; my willingness to believe that it’s time for my life — my family’s life — to swing back up after hitting rock-bottom; my willingness to trust my body to obey my mind, not whatever fucked-up chemical signals go on in my brain that cause my water to inexplicably break. i wanted to be a woman who was hopeful, to be a woman who was writing about being hopeful.

and i wanted to write about the sadness of hope actually having a half-life. about the way we want hope to spring eternal but then it doesn’t, although it comes back, doesn’t it, and when it comes back it carries our grief with it so that it’s never unadulterated, never pure, never joyful, even when it is at its absolute best.

but i don’t feel like i can write about that now because somehow the math is wrong. maybe not technically, but still, it really is: this is still my eighth pregnancy, and i still do hope it ends in my fourth (and final) delivery of a second living child. but i’m totally thrown by the equation eight pregnancies  eight embryos. i realize now that my eight pregnancies have produced nine embryos that i was somehow foolish enough to believe that a pregnancy equaled a baby. not necessarily a living baby, but a baby. one baby. even though i am surrounded by examples that teach me otherwise, i still, for whatever reason, had this completely unconscious belief.

which is ok, i suppose. it’s not like facing the reality that one pregnancy ≠ one embryo is that hard. it’s not like my worldview has been spun on its head. and it’s not even like a child of mine has died (although obviously another one has — it’s just so, so very different — and relatively, so freakishly easy — to have a first trimester miscarriage, which i can honestly say now that i think i’ve had four). but i want to know how the math works. how do i tally this? what are my new numbers?

and i’m upset that in my dr’s world, the math is no different. how do i count this pregnancy, i asked him. how does it fit into my history of pregnancies and miscarriages and losses?

his answer: it doesn’t.

that’s right, that’s what he says: it doesn’t. it doesn’t count as a miscarriage, and since kiddo#2 (wait, is that kiddo #9?) will just be reabsorbed either by me or by kiddo #8/kiddo #1, i probably won’t cramp or bleed or have any signs of a miscarriage. and my gravida-stats don’t change. he even said — his first mistake, in my opinion, as my caregiver — that all that matters is a positive outcome.

well, i think he’s wrong. i’m not usually a numbers-type of girl. but obviously these numbers — my gradvia-stats — have come to mean a lot to me.  i can tell you exactly what happened with each pregnancy — how each of the seven babies died, and how the one baby lived — and when things happened, and how. and the counting has mattered. the dates have mattered. the gestational age has mattered. my choices at different developmental stages have mattered. the stories i tell myself about my pregnancies are full of numbers that are deeply personal, deeply meaningful.

and now i have a loss — an early loss, a perfectly acceptable loss, probably even a beneficial loss — that i can’t count. and i just don’t know how to wrap my head around that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~edited to add~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

i can’t believe that in my frazzled, number-less state, i forgot: there are women suffering much more from the loss of a twin. if you haven’t already, please visit alexa and send her and simone your support.

i’ve been up all night composing and re-composing this post. every draft sucks. i have too much to say, no clear idea of how i want to say it, and right now, no time: i’m late to leave for a conference that will take me an hour to drive to, and we have flash floods predicted. but here goes.

s was right: twins.

and i was right: not.

we now get to add to our list of reproductive insanity a vanishing twin. only he’s not quite vanished: he’s still there in his own little sac filled with amniotic fluid, heart still beating. but like ruby (what is it with my kids and their damn strong hearts?) it was beating without pumping any blood. we watched the heart beat, oh-so-slowly, without making any sound. confirmation came when the ultrasound showed no blue and red splashes, indicating veins and arteries in action.

i’m not sad, which kind of surprises me. i’m very relieved. but i was also up all night thinking about this, so it’s obviously hit some emotional chord. i’ll be working this one out for a while, i think.

as for version 4.0: she looks great.

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.

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.

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.

i found this essay browsing NPR’s “This I Believe” and had one of those moments when i thought “man, why didn’t I think of that?” family as a verb. to family.

we familied over the turn to the new year with friends (a, j1, j2) who now live nearby. before we moved to our new home/city/state in may, these friends were an 8-10 hour drive away through some dull country. now they’re 90 minutes up a major highway. we drove up on new year’s eve for a wintry dinner of risotto and wine, watched tv through the obligatory midnight hour (and oh, how my heart sank for poor dick clark), ate 12 grapes each, one to signify each month of 2008 (i wanted to be like the italians and shove as many grapes in my mouth as possible, but the family (a noun) opted for the more delicate spanish mode and i’m not one to make waves) and stayed through the new year’s celebratory meal of hoppin’ john, when we were joined by our other dear friend p and p’s new friend c.

given this wealth of food and friendship, we familied well. in fact, we familied better, and more happily, and with more verve and style and with less exhaustion and tension than i could ever dream of doing with any of my blood relatives. j1 laid a beautiful table featuring a crushed orange velvet tablecloth from denmark. a fed us with absolutely brilliant food, and put up with us while we all drank. we took a brisk walk in the bitter cold just as snow was starting to fall, and came home to warm with up french-press coffees. we stuffed our gullets with lovely homemade chocolates, a holiday gift to j1 from an old college friend. i learned that i really like c and now can genuinely hope that c and p will be happy together. i told p some things i wasn’t sure i could, i listened to j1 tell me about some problems she’s facing this coming term (that’s school, not pregnancy), i admired j2’s new thomas the tank jammies, i watched m toddle around and befriend befamily absolutely everyone with equal enthusiasm, and i listened to a & s talk about music and smoking and “taboo food” in northern england.

the group of us celebrating together is a subset of a larger group that vacations together usually once–sometimes twice–a year, and has done so for eleven years. we have long described ourselves as a family of choice, since many of us (especially the women) have major issues with our families of origin. but to family: to family by choice. i like that.