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?

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.

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.