Monday, December 31, 2007

Abide with me

I'm not a bible thumper, I swear. I don't think there's anything wrong with being one, I just happen to keep my thoughts about God mostly to myself and quietly do my own thing. Unless I'm complaining about Him here, of course...

But because I found myself ridiculously early for New Year's Eve Mass tonight (I thought it would be crowded. It wasn't.) I decided to kill some time by flipping through my missal. I usually forget to bring it with me but for some reason I remembered tonight. It's all new and red and pretty and it caught my eye as I rushed out the door.

It shouldn't look quite as new as it does, actually. I forget it a lot.

Anyway, the back is filled with hymns and prayers and sundry, which is what I was perusing while I waited. Nothing like boredom to force you into prayer mode.

So when I read this little prayer, which I recognize as an old hymn that I think was one of my Grandfather's favourites, a chill tickled its way up my spine. Twice. My body payed attention to the magic in the words. The divinity, I suppose.

I don't know why, but I think a good spine-tingling prayer is worth repeating, especially in the dying hours of an old year that, for the most part, I'm very happy to see come to a close. Once and for all, and all that.

If it doesn't make you tingle, that's okay. If nothing else, maybe the archaic language will give you the cozies.

Either way, I hope you enjoy. And I hope the close of the year brings you some much needed peace, no matter who you are or what you've struggled with these last 12 long months.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A prayer

If you're the praying kind - or the throwing good thoughts out into the universe kind or the sending positive thoughts someone's way kind or the crossing your fingers and wishing on a star kind - could you please do any and all of the above for a friend whose one-month old baby was just diagnosed with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia?

We don't need any more sorrow in this already overcrowded blogosphere of grief. We don't need another mother in mourning.

Oh please God, not that...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Balance

My Beloved, I think, was a little stung when I made an offhanded comment about the ugliness of 2007.

And, to give him credit, he's correct in saying that it wasn't all bad. Some of it was good. Some of it was very, very good. I just have a very bad habit of dwelling on the things that wore me down and wounded me rather than focusing on the things that lifted me up and healed me.

So, in an effort to achieve some year-end balance, a list of good things that 2007 brought our way...

First, answers. As terrified as I was of the laparoscopy and all that surgery entailed, it did achieve the end we were hoping for. It gave us answers. It told us that the reason we'd been trying and failing for almost two years was the fine weave of scar tissue I'd quietly grown after the C-section and subsequent blood infection. Armed with this information I felt less broken. Less useless. More hopeful.

2007 also brought us our Goddaughter. She was born in 2006, but we were given the honour of becoming her Godparents in July of 2007. I had just found out I was pregnant with the twins, just stepping onto the roller coaster that would chew me up and spit me out a month and a half later. Having that blessing - knowing that we were that loved and trusted and forever bonded to a sweet little girl we both already adored - helped me cope with the uncertainty and sorrow of the weeks that followed.

We are still together. We are still in love. We are still committed to finding the path that will lead us to the happiness we want so badly. We are also still crazy (perhaps increasingly so in my case), but we're crazy together. Always.

Our families are whole and healthy. Mostly. Our parents are getting older, and aches, pains and chronic illness continue to batter them, but they're here. They're still here. Thank God.

The incredible near-toothless beast is still here too. Still warming us up with purrs and headbutts and furry cuddles on cold winter nights. And on hot summer days. And, really, whenever the hell she wants them.

I found two new freelance clients that arrived, as if on angel's wings, a few weeks after the D&C, giving me the much needed distraction of busyness. And it happens to be work that I'm loving so much it almost feels wrong to call it work. But don't tell them lest they decide the joy of doing the job is payment enough.

We have a house. We have food. We have a car. We have enough money to support my crochet habit.

We had a very good year.

We had a spectacularly bad year.

And yet we are still here. Sometimes I wonder how the hell that's possible, but it is. Somehow, it just is.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Decompression

I suppose I'm slow. I kept wondering why I was having such a hard time with Christmas this year. Last year, after all, was so much better than the year before - the first year without Thomas.

I enjoyed virtually everything about Christmas 2006. I missed the boy, yes, but I truly enjoyed all of the festivities in a way I had been completely incapable of the year before, lost in deep haze of grief.

So I stupidly assumed, without giving it much thought really, that this Christmas would be even better. Even easier. Two Christmases under my belt had to make this one even easier.

Except that it wasn't.

This was a hellish year in many slow, quiet ways. It started in January with the suggestion that we entertain the notion of exploratory surgery because all else had failed. Spectacularly so. Surgery was in March, a few weeks after Thomas' second birthday. It nearly broke me, if you'll recall - the lead up, pure terror. Then a third failed IUI. Then twins. Then a month and a half of torment and uncertainty while we waited for confirmation that the twins would never come. Then a D&C, hemorrhaging and an overnight hospital stay.

And, at long last, the onset of the Christmas season followed almost immediately by the onset of therapy.

Why I thought a year like that would gently wind its way down to a sweet and peaceful Christmas season is beyond me. Maybe I just hoped it would.

But I know better now.

Gotta love the usefulness of hindsight.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Counting down

Christmas used to be merrier once upon a time, but I'm doing my best. I am. I swear I am.

But if I'm being honest (and it seems like I should, just in case Santa's paying attention), I'm kind of looking forward to boxing day more than anything else at the moment.

I can't help it. It's been one hell of a year and I'm just missing too many little people.

Sometimes peace doesn't come when you want it to or when you think it should. In fact that's when it can be particularly elusive. Just because Hallmark says I should feel merry doesn't mean merry is necessarily going to find me.

It might. There's still time.

But if all else fails, there's always boxing day.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I should have figured this out long ago...

You know what's interesting? After four years, five losses and secondary infertility thrown in for good measure, I needed a therapist to help me realize that not only is it okay for me to be uncomfortable doing baby-related things sometimes, it's okay for me to remove myself from whatever uncomfortable situation I'm in to preserve my sanity.

Holy crap. Why did it take so long? Why did it take this long for me to figure out that it's okay not to be comfortable all the time and it's okay to protect myself when I'm not - that I don't always have to protect everyone else's feelings at the expense of my own?

This woman is definitely earning her money. Definitely.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ah, the Christmas letter

Here's the thing. I've always maintained that I absolutely do not want to be treated differently by the successfully child-bearing among us. And I still maintain this to be true.

However, I do kind of think people should use a modicum of tact and sensitivity when dealing with the bereaved, especially around this time of year. Especially with a still-fresh loss compounding the sorrow of the three behind it.

Which is why I nearly burst a vein last night when I got a Christmas letter tucked into a Christmas card from friends of our. It was a sweet letter, but it was 98% kid-oriented.

I can't necessarily cope with hearing about all the milestones your 9-month old son has reached, especially when that son was born on the day Thomas was due nearly three years ago. I don't want to hear about how his big sister (born four months after my first miscarriage) dotes on that tiny boy.

This probably sounds cold. Mean, even. I love children. I love all my friends' children. I love holding them and making them laugh and cooing at them.

But I do it when I can. When I choose to. When I'm capable.

When a letter barges its way into my quiet, empty house and regales me with tales of life in a happy, child-filled home it makes me ache with emptiness and longing. It makes my house deafeningly silent. It makes the tree lights burn my eyes. It makes me cry quietly while I'm watching The Grinch with My Beloved.

I know my sorrow and its magnification at this time of year isn't top of mind for most people, particularly those we don't see often, but my God, how does it not occur to people (who, by the way, know about the twins when many people don't) that we might not want to read a "look what my kid can do now" letter?

How does it not occur to them that it might hurt us? How is it possible not to realize that a letter like that shouldn't be sent to people like us?

Just, how??

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's about time this got some REAL coverage

From The Toronto Star, December 18/07...

Compassion lacking for women who miscarry

Lack of empathy for those who lose a fetus prompts woman to speak out

Helen Henderson
Living Reporter


Kelly Bodanis knows way too much about losing babies.

After three miscarriages in the last 15 months, she's also too familiar with the insensitive way society, and the health care system, often treat women going through such loss.

While she would rather keep her sorrow private, she bares her own hurt and anger in the hopes her story will inspire other women to join her call for change.

"Women don't come forward because they're embarrassed and in pain," she says. "I want to say to them: `Don't hide and stay home.'"

Ten weeks into her pregnancy, Bodanis had her most recent miscarriage last October in the washroom outside the labour unit at North York General Hospital.

"I felt like I had the plague. Nobody wanted to deal with me," she says of that afternoon spent in the emergency room.

"No woman who comes to the hospital with symptoms of a miscarriage should be left waiting for care in a public waiting room," says sociologist Deborah Davidson, who has had two miscarriages herself and volunteers with Bereaved Families of Ontario.

"A system to assess and improve compassionate care for miscarriage should be implemented," says Davidson, who teaches at York University and has completed a PhD dissertation on the subject of miscarriage.

North York General's chief of emergency medicine says his hospital's policy stipulates that the emotional aspect of miscarriage "should never be underestimated.

"Routine practice is to refer the woman to our counselling and bereavement program," says Dr. Tim Rutledge. That includes the services of a non-denominational chaplain, burial arrangements and the guidance of a social worker, Rutledge says.

"I don't know why that offer was not made in this case," he adds.

Instead, after waiting for hours, Bodanis was informed that her blood tested normal, that she had simply had a miscarriage and should visit her family doctor the next day.

"I wanted to say: `How do you know I don't need any medical intervention now? You haven't even examined me.'"

She had a similar experience 15 months before during her first miscarriage, which involved 12 hours spent waiting and being examined in ER at Credit Valley Hospital.

Heather McGillis, director of nursing at Credit Valley, and the hospital's ER manager Janet Cadigan, both say Credit Valley is among hospitals trying to improve emergency services for early miscarriages. That includes co-ordinating with other hospital services and workshops on perinatal bereavement counselling for staff.

And emergency rooms also should be ready to help, Cadigan says.

"We do our best to help with the emotional loss, too, but that can be a challenge on days when we are crowded," she adds.

Too often "the emotional aspect of miscarriage is swept under the rug. It's left to the woman to deal with it," says Dr. Bev Young, a psychiatrist with the perinatal mental health unit at Mount Sinai Hospital.

That depth of hurt resonates at the British-based Miscarriage Association, which offers information and support.

Every time the subject of miscarriage gets media attention, they receive calls from women in their 70s and 80s who want to talk about their own experiences.

"Society views this as not a real baby," Young says. "So people say the most stupid things and physicians are no different. For a woman, the lost potential has to be grieved.

"Most obstetricians won't even book an appointment before the 12th week (of pregnancy) because losses are so prevalent during that period."

Indeed, miscarriages, technically defined as pregnancy losses under 20 weeks, are essentially nonentities – even when it comes to record-keeping.

Statistics Canada places them in a category called "fetal loss," which also includes stillbirths and abortions.

In 2004, the latest year for which figures are available, StatsCan says 2,551 or 0.8 per cent of pregnancies in Ontario ended in fetal loss. That's down from 5,703 (1.9 per cent) in 1995.

Bodanis, an actor and dancer, and her husband Dan, who has his own jazz band, have a healthy 2-year-old son, Sabian. The toddler was born with the help of the high-risk maternity unit at North York General Hospital, the same unit she went to when she realized she was having her second miscarriage last December.

"That time, I was dealing with an obstetrician, a woman who was so considerate, it was as if she knew exactly what I was going through," she says. Bodanis was given an emergency dilatation and curettage (D&C) procedure to clear her uterus.

"The way we were treated there is the way every woman should be treated," says Dan. So in October, when Kelly miscarried for the third time, they headed back to that unit – only to find it closed.

"You can't have a system where miscarriages are treated seriously only if they happen between certain hours," says Dan.

Health Canada guidelines for hospitals say it is "crucial" that women who experience perinatal losses be "treated with sensitivity and that the emotional aspects of their loss, as well as their physical symptoms, be dealt with," says Davidson.

She notes that, in some ways, hospitals have improved their attitudes toward miscarriage more quickly than society at large.

While the care associated with stillbirths and the death of newborns has improved over the last two decades, "compassionate care for women who experience earlier miscarriage is still wanting," says Davidson.

Nursing students are being taught how to support women but "education for physicians is still inadequate," she says, adding she believes bereavement education should be made an important part of medical education.

"Physicians' reactions to a miscarriage range from a somewhat cavalier attitude to an intense level of empathy," says Neal Rote, a Cleveland immunologist who specializes in the field.

"I suspect the breadth of responses does not reflect medical school training as much as the physician's experiences and, regrettably, gender."

When he counsels people, Rote says "I tell them all the things they're going through – the fear about getting pregnant again, the hate and jealousy you feel toward other people's babies, even your best friend – that's universal."

You can find help online

Well-meaning but misguided sentiments from family and friends – "It was for the best," and "You can still have another one" – add to the anguish of miscarriage, says York University sociologist Deborah Davidson.

"To the woman who grieves the loss of her fetus or her baby, these are not comforting words," Davidson says.

Consequently, many women seek solace from websites. Among those offering support:

Perinatal Bereavement Services Ontario, pbso.ca.

Bereaved Families of Ontario, bereavedfamilies.net.

The Miscarriage Association, miscarriageassociation.org.uk.

Miscarriage Support Auckland, miscarriagesupport.org.nz.

pregnancyloss.info, a site created by Deanna Roy, who lost her first baby at 20 weeks and a twin at 10 weeks.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Musings

I've started carrying a chocolate bar in my purse. Just in case. I'm not entirely sure what sudden roadside emergency I can solve with a chocolate bar, but it just seems important to have one with me.

__________________________

I decided to start seeing a therapist. Four years of trying, failing, loss and infertility have, I have had to admit, finally taken their toll on what's left of my mind. I'm fine - I'm not a knife wielding psycho or anything and I'd prefer you not tiptoe around me as though I am - I just decided I need someone outside my sad little world to listen to me with fresh ears and a heart I can't wound.

I didn't realize how nice it could be to talk to someone who is completely emotionally detached - completely outside my circle. She didn't lose anything when Thomas died. I can't make her sad. I can't slow her healing process. I don't have to reassure her at my own expense.

Nice. So nice. Who knew?

_________________________

I have tiny little zits all over the end of my nose. Someone needs to tell the gods that I'm not 16. Either that or tell them to return my 16-year old body to me along with the zits. Not that it was necessarily all that fabulous, my 16-year old body, but at least everything was firm and in the right place. Plus there wasn't any scar tissue inside it, no one had yet died in it, and nothing on it hurt by the end of the day.

God, I had no idea just how good I had it.

_________________________

Britney Spears' 16-year old sister is pregnant.

Don't even get me started.

_________________________

I'm bound and determined not to go to any more stores, grocery or otherwise, until after Christmas. The holidays bring out the inner maniac in people and I find myself decidedly not filled with the spirit of Jesus when I have to deal with them.

You know, because I'm so perfect and all.

_________________________

I should, by all rights, be nearly 7 months pregnant with twins right now.

Ain't that a fucking kick in the head.

_________________________

I'm going to make my therapist a very rich woman.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The bow eating cat

For now, this is all I've got.

I'm fine, just busy and distracted by all the pretty lights and shiny things. Kind of like a crow.

So until I can wrap my head around a proper post, here's Lucy pretending she wasn't just mangling that silver bow...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's been that kind of a week

A broken head, a flu shot, hours of baking, 20 guests, too much sugar, tree decorating, a slightly less broken head, a deluge of freelance work, and now a cold that is slowly sneaking its way down into my chest.

I'm spent.

And how are you?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A public service announcement

I simply cannot deny cookie lovers who beg for recipes. It's too cruel. And besides, I know how important a cookie is when you're dealing with things that are occasionally too big for your head to contain.

So here's my Mom's famous, 1970s era peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipe:

GREAT COOKIES
(seriously, that's what they're called!)

1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 6oz package of chocolate chips

Heat over to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and peanut butter until blended. Gradually add both sugars and beat until fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Beat flour and baking soda (sifted together) into butter sugar mixtures at low speed. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop batter from tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets, then slightly flatten each with back of spoon.

Bake 12 - 15 minutes.

Makes approximately 4 dozen large cookies.

Enjoy!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Monday Musings

The other night, while adjusting myself mid sleep, I plopped my face down into a puddle of drool. And I don't know if it was mine or the cat's. So I folded that part of the pillow under, gave her a scratch and went back to sleep. Somewhere in my addled brain I'm sure I thought, "EWWW!", but the need for sleep was greater than my need for a clean pillow case. And reasonable hygiene standards.

Sometimes I think we're a little too close, the cat and I.
______________________

I can't deal with people getting old. Specifically, I can't deal with my parents getting old. The mental and physical decline that's happening right before my eyes to the two people I've always known as the strongest people alive is weighting heavily on my mind these days.

And my mind just doesn't have enough space for it.

Seriously, I just need five minutes. Can everything just stop spinning for FIVE minutes????
______________________

Once I had to crazy glue myself into a skirt. The zipper broke in the middle of the day. Irreparably so. I truly had no choice - a quick assessment of the situation in the bathroom revealed that it wasn't a quick safety pin fix. And, of course, I was going to the Cirque Du Soleil that night - a work function.

Lithe, lean acrobats performed fantastical body-bending feats. While I sat there glued into my skirt.
______________________

I made some additions to my links. It's something I put off for ages - until blogs and other sites I want to add here become so numerous (stored in a messy bookmark folder) that I start feeling panicky.

Anyway, they're added and I feel calm again.

Well, about this anyway.
______________________

Shouldn't "numerous" be spelled "numberous"? I totally think so.
______________________

The other day somebody commented on how wonderful it is that I can feel happiness for others. She said she still has trouble - can't let it go and often avoids situations where she knows she'll be confronted by people who have what she cannot.

You know what? I can't let it go either. I am happy for those whose dreams have come true. But it doesn't change the fact that I'm sad for me. For My Beloved. For my parents still waiting to cradle a living grandchild. For my sister still waiting to spoil a living niece or nephew. For my in-laws who want to erase the sorrow in their son's heart. For my friends who just want my dream to finally come true.

No amount of happiness for someone else will ever erase my sadness. It's always there. Always.

In short, I ain't no saint.
_______________________

I've been baking up a storm lately in preparation for company on Saturday. Seriously. If you'd walked into my kitchen at any point during the last three days it would have looked like a sugar, flour and butter hurricane had blown through the room leaving crumbs, batter and 49,000 dirty dishes in its wake.

It was peanut butter chocolate chip cookies this evening, and I was happily working away when that familiar uselessness washed over me.

My Mom made these particular cookies all the time when I was little. The smell of them baking, all peanut buttery and delicious, made me feel cozy - brought back so many sweet memories of childhood and of her.

But there's no child here. No one to absorb the sounds of baking clatter, the scents of freshly baked cookies, the warmth of a winter kitchen.

I'm not making memories for anyone except me. I'm just a woman alone in a kitchen.

Que sera, sera? Geez, someone needs to smack that Doris Day.
_______________________

Oh well. At least I have cookies.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Three of us, three of them

I can't remember a time when I didn't know that my Mom lost her first baby. It feels like I've always known, which is probably partly because I'm so old. I can't remember the beginning of a lot of things things. Hell, my head is so full I often can't remember much of yesterday.

But I digress...

I've thought so much about my lost brother or sister over the years. There was a time when I was a child that it preoccupied me endlessly. I decided that the baby was a boy and prayed for him at church and before bed, all the while wondering what life would have been like if there were three children instead of two. Me and two siblings instead of just one. Me with a big sister and a big brother.

Of course I never bothered to try to figure out the logistics of this feat. My Mom became pregnant with my sister just a few months after losing the baby, so clearly Kathy wouldn't be here if that first child was.

But details like that aren't important when you're a kid all caught up in the romance of having a mysterious lost brother. A secret sibling.

I remember being so affected by the tears in my Mother's eyes when she would talk about that long lost child. I was in awe of the strange bond that she shared with him and, truthfully, probably a little jealous. Which is, of course, totally ridiculous. But having never seen my mother cry over me it was jarring to see her express such sorrow and love for a child I'd never known. And would never know.

Her eyes still fill with tears when she talks about him. He would be 42 in May. Forty-two, and yet the pain is still so acute that it brings tears to her eyes.

This is endlessly comforting, even though there is certainly guilt in taking comfort from someone else's pain.

But the thing is, knowing that she still misses her child this deeply makes me think that it's okay that I still cry. That I still mourn. That I still think about my lost babies too. I came to the conclusion that this is the way it's always going to be a long time ago, but my Mother's tears validate it in a way that nothing else can.

And so my brother means that much more to me. Is that much more a part of the fabric of our family in an awful, but also loving and healing way.

He matters. Just like all the little ones do.

In the days and weeks following her miscarriage, my Mom worked on an art project to occupy her mind and soothe her spirit. I didn't know this until that art project found its way into my front garden last week after I coyly finagled its liberation from the back of their garage. Just in time for Christmas.

Knowing its history, particularly with the history of sorrow I now carry in my own heart, makes it even more special to me.

It reminds me of love and family and loss and bonds that are never, ever broken. Not even after 42 years.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

For Christy

This morning I found out that one of my "virtual" friends died last night, just two and a half weeks after having her second baby. A little boy.

She never suffered the loss of a child, but she certainly went out of her way to reach out to those who had. She held my Thomas in her heart and made sure I knew it. She and her first child, a little girl born two weeks after Thomas, celebrated his birthday every year by making donations in his name and sending me beautiful and thoughtful gifts that showed me must how much they cared - how much his life impacted theirs.

Last night an unknown infection took her life, taking her from her husband and her family, and the two beautiful children she loved so much.

I could rant about the unfairness of it - about the seemingly random nature of fate that wreaks havoc on the people who least deserve it - but I'm just too tired. Too sad. Too heartbroken for Christy's sweet little babies and her husband who is now all alone.

Instead, I'm going to do what Christy did, and ask you if you'll consider doing the same. This Christmas season try to find someone who is suffering in some way and reach out to them - even if it's someone you don't know all that well. Find a way to show them that you care - that you're not afraid of the sorrow that might be eating them alive or the circumstances that have brought them to a place of loneliness and despair.

Christy did this for me. She was never afraid of my sorrow. She was never afraid of my pain. She was never afraid to reach out to me. Ever. She just quietly went about the business of trying to ease my pain by showing me how much she cared, and by remembering my little boy with so much love.

And for that I will be eternally grateful.

Godspeed Christy, and thank you, my sweet friend, from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, November 26, 2007

No man's land

Sometimes I wonder who's still reading. I write for me. I write because at least for now, this form of therapy keeps me on the friendly side of sanity.

But I wonder, after all this time, who is still out there. I'm not fishing for reassurances or asking people to reveal themselves. If you're here, I'm glad. If you're not, that's okay too. Truly.

But sometimes I wonder. So many people have moved past the spot where I'm still standing. And I just wonder what possible relevance anything I have to say has for the lucky ones who are no longer walking this road with me.

While I know this is not true, I sometimes feel like I'm the only person in this sad little blogging community who is always standing still. Never moving anywhere. I've worn down a neat little trench from all the pacing, and spend all my time waving goodbye to people who were once in the trench with me. They've either gone on to birth or adopt a living child, or have made peace with the reality of never adding another child to their family. Either way, they've moved on.

And I'm still here. I know it's not a race or a competition or anything else equally distasteful. It's just life, and I'm ecstatic when it lurches forward positively for someone else - particularly after struggles and losses and ungodly sorrow.

But I wonder why I always seem to be standing in the same spot day after week after month after year. Just losing and grieving and not moving anywhere.

Don't get me wrong, seeing other people move on is healing. Seeing the dreams of shattered people finally realized and watching those people glue a tiny piece of their hearts back together in the process is wonderful. It makes me see that there is hope and justice and peace. Eventually.

Sometimes.

It's just that I'm still here in the trench. In no man's land. And it's lonely sometimes.

I need to make it very, very clear that I do not begrudge anyone this happiness. This is what I WANT for all the incredible friends I've made since my world shattered and I discovered this community of similarly wounded souls. I want it so much for each of them.

I just happen to want it for me too. One way or another.

And I'm tired of standing here by myself waiting.


I'm sick today, and feeling extremely sorry for myself (just in case you hadn't noticed).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Musings

We caught a little bit of the Santa Claus parade while we were in Montreal. We didn't stay for the whole thing because it was very cold out. And we were hungry. And we're pussies, evidently. But we watched a bit of it and enjoyed soaking up the Christmas atmosphere.

It's funny just how barren you can feel when the crowd you're in has a median age of four. And you're easily outnumbered by them 5 to 1.

We eventually gave up the excellent curb-side spot we'd secured to a family with a toddler in a stroller and another one very obviously on the way.

And I felt somehow small and ashamed by my childlessness.

______________________________________

Four days in a hotel is the precise amount of time it takes for you to become completely used to someone else making your bed, cleaning your bathroom, vacuuming your floors and making every single meal for you.

Coming home to a house with no staff sucks ass.

______________________________________


I'm procrastinating at the moment. My plan is to take Thomas' Christmas wreaths to the cemetery today, and it always requires a little mental preparation before I make the trip.

Fortunately it's a lovely, sunny day.

But, well, my boy is still dead.

______________________________________

I got a hair cut yesterday afternoon.

My stylist is a bit of a wing nut, but I forgive her because she has been kind and tactful enough not to ask me any prying questions about children or my uterus since she heard the whole story during my inaugural visit. I love her for this.

I did catch her taking what she believed was a furtive glance at my tummy, but I can overlook this indiscretion. I should have told her that any bump she may have seen was just one too many croissants.

Lord, those Montreal croissants are good...

Anyway, I love my stylist and the cut is excellent, but I don't for the life of me know why she insists on blowing my hair dry into a ridiculous bouffant.

I know now to make my appointments late in the day when the only place I need to go afterwards is home.

______________________________________

I shouldn't have mentioned croissants. My tummy heard me.

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I think they should start building space shuttles out of whatever my purse is made from. I bought this thing at least four years ago (as a reward for making through a particularly annoying Monday at work) and with the exception of some very minor wear (that's virtually invisible unless you're inspecting it closely) it looks brand new.

I don't know how this can possibly be since I use it year round, but I'm increasingly curious to see exactly how long it's going to last. At this rate it's conceivable that it might outlast ME.

The best thing? It was dirt cheap - something like $35, as I recall.

But it's cute. I swear it is. Shut up, it is.

_______________________________________

I'm out of material. It's time to head off to the cemetery.

This is NOT the life I ordered. Why does it feel like the longevity of cheap purses is the only thing I can rely on?

Well that and, thank God, My Beloved.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More evidence...

Why I feel the need to incriminate myself, I don't know. But I'm too tired to think straight (post vacation letdown/fatigue) and this picture sums up the great Montreal gorge-fest of '07 perfectly...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Our 5th anniversary getaway, or, How I used my anniversary as an excuse to eat my way through Montreal

In case you think I'm kidding, I give you exhibit A:



These are the remains of our last dinner in Old Montreal (I packed away one more pierogi and scarfed down most of the sauerkraut after I took this shot).

The restaurant was Polish. We were hungry. Kismet.

And yes, as a matter of fact those are three plates you see there on the table. As yes, there were only two of us on this trip. We ordered three dinners that night, just 'cause we could. It was that kind of a trip.

C'mon, it's very, very hard to choose between peirogi and potato pancakes.

We loved Montreal. It tastes really, really good.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How many people does it take to make a family anyway?

I just got a courtesy call from what appears to be a bulk grocery delivery company (although their website doesn't specifically claim to be a Costco-style organization).

The very cheerful and friendly sales rep said we could save money on our grocery bill, and I'm all over saving money, so my ears perked right up.

CHEERFUL SALES GUY: "Do you have a family of three or more people in your house that you're shopping for?"

Oh shit. Yeah, I know where this is going. I got a call from you people a few months ago. The lady hung up when I answered "no", without so much as a thank you or a goodbye.

ME: "No, we don't."

CHEERFUL SALES GUY: "Oh, well you won't be needing us then."

Nope. Not until we can manage to bring a live child home. Until then there's just the two of us and our sneezy cat. Evidently we aren't enough of a "family" to warrant discount grocery offers.

Fuck you very much.

Monday, November 12, 2007

My favourite MOO

I loved this outfit. I remember the day My Beloved and I bought it.

I was physically incapable of avoiding the baby section of any store while I was pregnant with Thomas. I can't even fathom the number of hours I spent wandering through racks of impossibly tiny clothes, touching their softness, holding them up, choosing between them. Smiling.

We bought the MOO outfit at Old Navy. I fell in love with it instantly and knew it absolutely had to be Thomas'.

I'm sure I'm not the only pregnant woman to stand in front of her unborn child's closet staring at all the little sleepers, sweaters and leggings, dreaming of the day her baby would wear them.

The MOO outfit was, for some reason, one of the ones I just couldn't wait to put on Thomas. I could so vividly imagine how cuddly he'd feel in the little velour pants and how cute the funny little cow top would make him.

We all know how the story ends. Another little boy wore the MOO outfit instead.

But you know what? I still love it. And I'm eternally grateful that I've finally been able to see a cuddly baby boy wearing it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Crib recall

ASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bassett Furniture Industries Inc is recalling about 8,900 Chinese-made baby cribs because the bolts can loosen, posing an entrapment and strangulation hazard, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said on Thursday.

The company has received 85 reports of bolts connecting the top corners of its "Wendy Bellissimo Collection Convertible Cribs" loosening. In one case, a 13-month-old child's hand became trapped between the railings, the agency said.

The cribs have been sold at Babies "R" Us stores in the United States since July 2005 for about $500 each, it said.

The recalled cribs are model numbers 5945-0521 and 5545-0521, sold in honey and cherry finishes. Other Wendy Bellissimo Collection cribs are not involved in the recall, the agency said.



My first thought? "Whew, it's not our crib. These cribs were made in July 2005." I was four months into the grieving process by then.

Yeah, how marvelous that I don't have to worry about having a defective crib because they were made after our child had already died.

Marvelous. Simply marvelous.

But you, you should check your crib just in case, okay? Do if for the crazy lady who can't rest until she knows you have...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

NOW can I have a cookie?

I feel like I owe the world an apology for the way I sometimes see things. For my occasional inability to find joy where everyone else does. For my penchant for feeling gut twisting jealousy when I have no business doing so. For my angry thoughts. For my twisted sense of logic. For my inability to pray. For my lost patience. For my tempers and moods and self pity.

Or maybe I do have the right to see life through these jaded eyes but just have trouble making the justifiable fit into the nice, pretty, organized world around me. The world that doesn't like to think that people feel the way I do sometimes, justified or not.

You know, I worry incessantly that I'm turning into someone ugly and bitter that people are eventually going to opt not to be around.

Which then makes me want to fall to my knees in a tear and snot filled frenzy and beg for forgiveness.

When I try not to be the ugly person I am inside during these moments of torment, I end up feeling like a fraud. And a confused one. Is trying to be a better person actually not being true to yourself? Is trying to change the way you feel about something lying or healing? Can you re-train your brain after something so earth shatteringly tragic has altered it?

I never used to be like this. I swear I didn't.

I'm at war with my head today. Can you tell?

I don't fault other people who are grieving and recovering for the feelings they have or their reactions to the ordinary that is suddenly anything but. I never have. But for some reason I have a hard time cutting myself the same slack.

Ugh.

I think I need a cookie. That's the only answer. Clearly.

So, you know, if you have a really good recipe that you're willing to share and you feel so inclined, I'm all ears.

I could use the distraction...

(You can't see it, but I'm furiously batting my eyelashes here - and I'm not too proud to pout...)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Musings

Last year around this time I was able to soothe away the rising infertility-induced panic by repeatedly telling myself that by this Christmas I would either be pregnant or we'd be well on our way to adopting a child.

What a silly, stupid girl I was.

_________________________________

I've been awakened on and off during the last few nights by a sneezing cat and a snoring husband. Fall allergies are making them both very noisy in the night.

They're lucky they're so cute.

_________________________________

Yesterday I bought a personalized memorial Christmas wreath for Thomas to go on his grave. It really bothers me that when snow covers his marker no one knows he's there. This will remedy that little problem.

I told My Beloved it made me happy because there's nothing else I can do for him at Christmas but buy stuff like this.

"Well maybe if you took him more places..." was his reply.

The morbid jokes never get old. We're sick bastards, the two of us.

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The other day My Beloved and I spent two hours wandering up and down the main street of our town window shopping. It was the perfect way to spend a sunny, Fall afternoon.

It would have been even more perfect if we hadn't kept alternately passing and trailing a pregnant woman and her husband. The last straw was when she came out of the chocolate shop and stuffed her face full of it as I passed by.

Come on, not chocolate AND a baby!!

Harrumph.

_________________________________

I'm not bitter. I'm just drawn that way.

_________________________________

On Sunday I wrote down the names of my angels and my grandparents in the Book of Remembrance after Mass, as I do on the first Sunday in November every year.

I don't think people who haven't had losses like this realize how gratifyingly soul soothing it is to have the opportunity to say "I had children and these are their names."

They lived. That's all I want people to know. They lived.

__________________________________

The Lotto 6/49 jackpot is 35 million tomorrow.

Wouldn't that be a humdinger? I know money can't buy happiness, but it would still be very nice not to have a mortgage. I think the universe owes us that at least.

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We're going away for a few days in a few weeks and I'm terrified that something is going to happen to my sneezing, sleep-disrupting cat.

We certainly don't think of her as a surrogate child, but we're both very attached to the hairy little beast just the same.

I'm sure she'll be just fine - we have a plan in place for feeding and watering and attention-getting - but I worry just the same. I think I'll spend the rest of my life fixated on some sort of irrational worry.

It's what I do.
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I have no upper body strength. It's a fact.

When I told someone recently that My Beloved says I have "decorative arms" she awwwwed and isn't-he-sweeted like crazy. That is, until I clarified that it isn't that he thinks my arms are pretty, it's that he thinks they're functionally useless.

Oh how we laughed, me and my decorative arms.
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I'm addicted to 90210 reruns.

Why is it that getting lost in the 80s and early 90s is so soothing?

If it wasn't for pornaments and 90210...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Time

Time does not heal all wounds. I probably believed that it did once upon a time, but now I'm only willing to say that it merely dulls a wound's pain. Some wounds don't ever fully heal.

But a dull pain is still a nice alternative to writhing in agony, if I do say so myself.

The first Halloween without Thomas was agony. The little Old Navy Halloween sleeper we'd picked out for him would have fit him that year, and it's all I could think about all day long. Last year was a little easier. There were no Thomas-sized clothes in the house by then. He would have outgrown all the things stored in the basement by October 2006.

This year, although I admit there were quiet tears midway through the day, was the easiest yet. I missed my boy like always, but the pain wasn't as acute. I didn't dwell quite as much on what we don't have that all the other parents coming to our door did. It just didn't occur to me the way it did last year.

And this, while it's a good thing really, makes me uncomfortable. It's not that I want to stay mired in unshakable grief, but not feeling it the same way I used to is somehow disturbing.

Is it numbness? Resignation? Healing? Denial? Or is it just habit? I'm so used to grief that I sometimes don't notice it anymore.

My body has been a giant, clenched knot since I lost the twins. I can feel the grief. I wear it like a coat right now, this newer grief I haven't been able to shed or fully absorb yet.

But the Thomas grief is changing over time. I notice it in my reactions to annual events like Thanksgiving and Halloween, and the different ways I react to his absence each year.

It's good. I think I'm doing good. But it's still a little unsettling for each day to feel so "new". Grief is a journey in so many ways and I'm always moving through it, around it, past it. I'm always moving. Always adjusting to the new way I feel.

I move and ache all at the same time and I don't have time to rest.

Going forward is the right thing to do and I'm glad that for some reason that's the direction in which I'm headed. But what I wouldn't give for a just one minute of stillness and silence and rest.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Gaaaahhhhh!!!!

You know what I hate? I hate that I can't see the world through eyes other than my own. And I really hate that sometimes it turns me into a bitter, judgmental cow.

I hate that I can't listen to someone else's birth story and see it as anything but a walk in the park - no matter how long, painful or scary they may have found it - if they came home with a live baby at the end of it. A live baby cancels out all the rest of it to me. I know that's unfair. I know it.

I hate that sometimes hearing about someone's "really bad day" makes me suddenly seethe inside when they start to rhyme off a laundry list of things that I consider fruit fly-sized problems. Dead babies make for a really bad day, not missing your bus or spilling coffee on your crotch.

I hate that I understand that we all see life based solely on our own experiences. I hate that I get it - that I get that for some lucky son-of-a-gun a lap full of coffee is the baseline for bad luck.

If I didn't get it, it would be so much easier to just hate everyone and their petty annoyances. But because I do get it, I can't. I have to feel these ugly, judgmental feelings, then talk myself out of them by reminding myself that people only know what they know.

I just hate that I know so much.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Utterly precious



Baby Lucas wearing Thomas' teddy bear onesie, overalls and tiny blue shoes.

I could sit and look at this picture for hours.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fishy goodness

I know I'm totally biased, but I think everything about this is brilliant.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

All over the place

I've been thinking a lot about the twins today, as though I suddenly just remembered them.

Grief is weird. For some odd reason they finally seem like real little people to me, and they've been gone for more than two months.
_____________________

Last night I lay in bed with my hands on my tummy. I can't believe how many little people have been in there. How many babies have slipped in and out so quickly and quietly. And, in most cases, dramatically.

There's nothing quite as jarring as the doughy emptiness of a tummy after a miscarriage or three.
_____________________

I got a new pair of glasses that I think are very cool and that I think look very cool on me. But to be honest, I'm also secretly a little worried that I look like Mrs. Beesley in them.

Please tell me I'm wrong about the latter...


_____________________

I have an adorable picture of my friend's baby boy wearing one of Thomas' outfits, but I keep forgetting to ask her if I can post it here.

I hope she says yes. Poke. Poke. Poke.
_____________________

Still no word from the OB on my blood tests. I'm calling on Monday if I don't hear anything by the end of the week. I've been very patient, but I neeeeeeed to know.

Someone asked - they're looking for clotting disorders.

A clotting disorder will go nicely with my deformed uterus, I think. It's what all the best dressed infertiles are wearing this season.
_____________________

The other day on my way a meeting I was passing Toys 'R Us when a parade of employees marched directly in front of my path wielding all the big, key nursery necessities for a customer leading the pack. I slowed down to let the crib pass and shot an eye roll heaven-ward.

He thinks he's sooooooo funny.
______________________

Last night I dreamed that Scary Spice and I were running through rivers of mud trying to catch up with my Dad, who I thought might have found my missing purse.

I don't have any idea what this means.

But just in case there's any truth in the dream and you happen to be in a similar situation, don't EVER accidentally fling mud in Scary Spice's hair. She really hates that.
_______________________

We lost the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness magnet somewhere in the depths of the car wash last night.

The car feels completely naked now. I didn't realize how much I needed the magnet until it blew off in the multi-coloured streams of soap and disappeared.

I'm. So. Needy.

I have ordered a new magnet and will try to ignore the nakedness for the time being.
________________________

Grief. Scary Spice. Car magnets.

I'm spent.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

As we once were...



Thank you for always being there with your arm around my shoulder, even still. I love you.

Happy 40th birthday!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Who said failure isn't an option?

When you turn 40 you need to have a party. It's a rule. So My Beloved and I are throwing my sister a 40th birthday cocktail party on Saturday, complete with fancy hors d'oeuvres and a signature cocktail (which My Beloved has promised to invent...eventually).

In the interest of dealing with that bereavement fatigue I mentioned yesterday, I've been spacing out the party preparation tasks over the course of the last few days. Today's agenda included washing all the hardwood floors, dusting the living room/dining room and baking the cake (which I was going to freeze and ice on Saturday).

I am a good cook most of the time and a good baker most of the time. But if something is going to fail in a dramatic and spectacular way, it's going to be when I'm preparing it for a special occasion.

You know, like someone's 40th birthday.

So there is cake and it is edible, but it's not party-worthy cake. Not by a long shot.

When you have to cut an inch off each side to get rid of the strange crunchy ends, and in the process notice bubble holes so big you can stick you finger into them, the cake ceases to be a thing of beauty, no matter how good it smells (and no matter how good those crunchy ends taste - because yeah, of course I ate them).

So as I stood there in the kitchen looking at the cake, it slowly morphed into a tangible symbol of bigger failures. The life and death variety.

And I started getting a tiny bit panicky, because failure of any kind is very distressing right now. It sabotages my sense of control. It ruins my fragile peace. And, frankly, it pisses me off. No one likes to fail, but when you can't even bake a fucking cake properly...

In the end it wasn't a complete disaster. The cake is fine for tomorrow night's dessert with my family in place of the cake my Mom bought. Once iced with the requested raspberry icing I'm sure it will be just fine. And in the meantime I'll head out to the grocery story and order a cake for Saturday.

Failure is all about making do. Figuring out another way. Picking up the pieces and carrying on. And yeah, eating some crusty ends every once in a while.

I'm good at dealing with failure. I've learned how. I hate doing it, but it seems to fit me like a glove and I somehow make it work.

But still, I hope one day I'll be able to bake a perfect cake.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I have a lot to say for someone who feels THIS grumpy

It's just PMS, but it feels so much like Clomid it's scaring me. Why am I so hormonal two months post-miscarriage and D&C? Freaky. And annoying. I have too much to do this week to be THIS hormonal. And no, there's not a chance in hell that I'm pregnant. This is just PMS at it's ugliest.

Lucky me.
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A very dear friend heard her baby's heartbeat for the very first time today. After suffering devastating losses followed by two years of soul-crushing infertility, she is nearly 8 weeks pregnant. At long last, pregnant. And everything is a-okay.

When I heard the good news I let out a breath I didn't realize I was holding in and thanked God for giving them what he chose not to give to us this summer.

And then I worried that the bitterness in the end of my prayer would cancel out the genuine gratitude of the first part.

And then I worried that if I blogged about it people would misunderstand and not realize that the bitterness is directed at God, not at my dear friends.

And then I decided that I needed to throw caution to the wind, stop apologizing and explaining and just write.
_____________________________

The results of my blood tests should be back sometime this week.

I've mostly put them out of my mind, save for having a vague idea about when I should be hearing from my OB, and I realize the reason for this is that I'm scared shitless about what the tests will reveal.

It's possible I'll find out that I'm more to blame for Thomas' death than I realized. And I'm not entirely sure what I'll do with that information.

But I know there will need to be wine.
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My big sister is turning 40 this week.

She really, REALLY needs to stop getting older because she's dragging me with her and I'm not impressed by this at ALL.

______________________________

Yesterday on our way to my Mom & Dad's for dinner we drove up alongside a couple out for a late afternoon walk. As we approached them it dawned on me that they were alone - they didn't have the requisite stroller, wagon or baby sling that 99% of people wandering our streets seem to have. They were even dog-less.

And it was immensely comforting. We aren't the only ones, I thought.

I turned to look at them as we drove past, and caught sight of her bulging tummy.

And harrumphed for the rest of the ride.
_______________________________

I went out with my neighbour and my Goddaughter this afternoon. Warehouse shopping is good for the soul - and even better for PMS.

And so is having a giggling one-year-old run over to you with her arms in the air, in the hopes that you'll pick her up.

Should this opportunity ever present itself to you, do as the child wants. There is nothing like a tiny little girl looking at you with big wide eyes and shooting a great gap-toothed grin your way. Nothing.
_______________________________

The other day it dawned on me that I feel tired all the time. I mean run-over-by-a-cement-truck-bone-achingly tired. And I'm fine. I'm not sick and when I'm not having nightmares I sleep very well. I eat healthy, well-balanced meals (most of the time) and I take my vitamins.

I've come to the conclusion that this is the fatigue of the bereaved. I drag a trunk full of additional baggage with me wherever I go. It's bound to wear a girl out.

What I wouldn't do for that once-upon-a-time sense of physical well-being I had before my body showed its true, murderous colours
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During the last few days people have found this blog by doing searches for the following:

Love snoring
Too many highlights in my hair
Kellogs Roller Coaster
Mall Santa Claus


To these poor, unsuspecting victims I extend my most sincere apologies.

Age is a funny thing. Hilarious.

Last night I was having a conversation in my head. Just me and some random stranger. Please indulge me and for the time being let's ignore the fact that it's a little crazy to have imaginary conversations with imaginary strangers and just focus on the subject of said discussion, okay?

Not surprisingly, it was Thomas-themed.

I was being asked by a stranger if I had children and, upon confirmation, how old they were. And suddenly the pretend conversation ground to a screeching halt.

How old is Thomas?

The bereaved have a tendency to age their children as the months and years pass. For the first year of what should have been Thomas' life I obsessively made note of the 9th of every month and mentally added that month on to his age. He was dead, but he was also 6 months old, 7 months old, 8 months old. And on and on.

I don't count months anymore and I usually don't notice the 9th of the month either, but I still know how old my boy is.

Is? Was? What is it?!

When I talk about my grandparents (who are all dead) I don't age them. They are the age they were when they died. In fact I have to stop and think about how old they'd all be now. Two of them would have crested 100 years ago, but how many years I'm not sure.

That's because old people die and cease to move forward. Why is it so different for babies? Why am I so obsessed with knowing how old Thomas is and moving him forward in time as though he was actually here growing older with the rest of us?

I wonder if when I'm 80 I'll find myself in the dusty, urine-scented sitting room of a nursing home imagining a conversation between me and another resident in which I tell her that my son is nearly 46.

Will it go on that long? I can't imagine not knowing how old Thomas would be at any given moment. I just know it, like I know how to breathe.

He's two years, 7 months old.

Or should be, depending upon which side of the bereavement fence you sit.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's funny what you hear when you really listen

My favourite priest did the sermon this morning, so I listened attentively. I tend to wool-gather a whole lot less when he's preaching because I almost always find a message in his words. And messages from the great big guy in the sky have been very few and far between for me since Thomas died, sometimes no matter how hard I listen.

But Father Mark somehow always seems to hit a nerve, to cut to the very heart of the matter and demonstrate his understanding of a God I can actually live with.

Today he was talking about the importance of prayer. Blah, blah, blah, I initially thought, because prayer has proven mostly useless to me since the moment I found myself lying on an operating table begging God not to take my son two and a half years ago.

And when the answer to my small, frightened prayers this summer was miscarried twins and a D&C fraught with complications I began to believe even less in the "ask and it shall be answered" dogma I've been taught my whole little Catholic life.

But this morning Father Mark presented it in slightly different way.

Pray often and fervently, he encouraged, but be warned. Be warned? Be warned, because praying this way often results in getting what you've asked for.

The quiet pew-sitter raised a skeptical eyebrow here, and the inner cynic started howling with rage. I prayed my ass off the entire time I was pregnant with Thomas, and all I have to show for it is a dead child and a trail of broken hearts.

But he went on...

You're likely to get what you've asked for because in praying - in focusing your heart and energies on thinking about the thing that you so fervently desire - you make yourself open and more willing to take the steps necessary to get that thing - to achieve that desired end.

And this isn't even remotely "Secret-like". It's not about throwing energy out into the universe and waiting for it to pick up good vibes in the atmosphere and rain them back down on you, along with BMWs and winning lottery tickets. This is you focusing on what you want, internalizing it - and then getting up and doing something about it.

I realize this still doesn't explain how I have a dead son - how I have 5 dead babies - when I did pray hard and did do everything I could to try to bring those children safely into the world.

But regardless, the thing that I like about this vision of prayer is that it puts so much of the power in my hands. It's not all about that magical dude in the sky and his passing whims and fancies.

And I like that very much.

I've been trying to figure out what the hell the point in praying is if God is going to do whatever he wants no matter how much I beg, cajole and plead, but now I kind of see that prayer is as much as exercise for me as it is a dialogue with God. At least this kind of prayer, anyway.

It's not magic, at least not entirely, it's self-motivation.

I don't know what to do with the problem of unanswered prayers and their resulting dead babies, but I'm somewhat comforted by this new vision of prayer that Father Mark presented this morning just the same.

Of course, I could also be taking it all the wrong way and twisting his words to suit my own spiritual needs, but this is truly what I took away from the sermon today. And even though it still doesn't explain how or why so many important prayers seem to fall on deaf ears and go unanswered no matter how many steps we take to get them answered (because God knows I did every single thing in my power to bring Thomas safely into the word), at least there was a measure of comfort at Mass today.

And sometimes a measure of comfort is just enough to keep on keeping on.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The morning of the 15th

This was what I saw when I woke up and looked out the window on Monday morning.

I should have known it was going to be a good day. I totally should have known.



Blogger is being finicky and won't let me upload more pictures than this, so I'll save the rest for another day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In a blink of an eye

Last night My Beloved and I went to the St. Michael's Choir School 70th Anniversary Gala at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto with my sister and my Dad, who is one of the oldest living graduates of the school. I won't reveal exactly how old, but let's just say he's got Choir School buddies that he's known for close to 70 years and leave it at that...

It was a wonderful night. Truly extraordinary. My heart was still so full this morning just thinking about what a good time my Dad had and how happy he looked, the sound of his laughter still ringing in my ears.

But because we were there, I wasn't home to light my candle at 7:00pm. I started thinking about this, and about Thomas, midway through the first half of the show. A pianist was playing something I should probably know the name of but don't, and my eyes drifted from the stage where his hands were flying across the keys up towards the hall's great circular ceiling.

I sat looking up, hearing the music and thinking of Thomas, and in that moment it suddenly felt like the entire hall was filled with him - with his presence and his being. I felt it surge up from the middle of the hall, burst up to the ceiling, and wrap itself along the curved walls right to my seat.

And the moment I felt it - the second I acknowledged what the feeling was - it disappeared. He left as fast as he came. I tried to summon him back - to look up and feel him there again - but all that was left was music.

And in his wake, a tremendous sense of peace and love.

I fully realize how hokey this sounds, by the way. I know I sound like a bereaved (and slightly insane) mother who really wanted to feel something and conjured up a magical sensation out of thin air at an already emotional event. But I wasn't trying. I wasn't. Yes, I was thinking about Thomas, but I wasn't hoping for some cosmic spiritual reunion. I was just listening to the music and thinking about him like I always do.

It just happens that this time he chose to respond in a very large way.

The enormity of the presence got me thinking about how I actually do think of him. He's my baby. He's my tiny little boy and I think of him as the sweet and beautiful newborn he was in my arms. I call myself Mommy when I talk to him, and I speak to him like he's a child.

But the spirit I felt last night, so large and warm and loving, was bigger than me. Bigger than the building and everyone in it combined.

Big enough to fill a concert hall in the blink of an eye and leave it just as fast.

Skeptics may scoff (and that's their prerogative), but I know what I felt. I know exactly what that was last night, and I think I know why he came. The event meant so much to me, to my Dad and to our whole family, and I think he wanted me to know that he was there too. That he's a part of our lives in as big a way as can be, even when we don't realize it - and especially when we don't think it's even possible.

I used to dream that one day I'd send Thomas to the Choir School so he could continue the tradition his Grandfather started 69 years ago. He'll never be a student at the school or sing with the choir or forge 6-decade old friendships like my Dad, but last night he was able to let me know that he's a part of it all too, in a way that only he can be.

And last night it was every bit as good as if he was sitting there beside me, holding my hand and listening to the music rise gently to the ceiling.

Monday, October 15, 2007

October 15th



This morning I received an e-mail from a member of a local bereaved parents Ministry team indicating that she is very interested in speaking after our Mass of Remembrance in November.

What a fitting day to hear such good news.

And, if that wasn't enough, the angels sent an absolutely breathtaking sunrise this morning. It had to be them. Truly, it did.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pornaments





As My Beloved pointed out this afternoon, the Christmas ornament habit we've been feeding of late isn't harming anyone. It's not like it's crack or booze or anything. it's just ornaments.

Well, yeah, there's wine every now and then. But mostly it's ornaments. We go to Christmas stores. We go to Hallmark. We go to Carlton Cards. We look at them online. We seek them out at toy shows (which is where we found the two we gasped at and took home this afternoon - Fisher Price classics turned into tree danglers. I mean come ON, how could anyone in their 30s resist these?).

Ornaments are our porn. Pornaments, if you will.

You do what you have to do, right? You do what works. And right now ornament porn it is.

I suspect by this point we are dangerously close to needing a third tree, but we'll worry about that another time, shall we?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Smallest Wingless

I'm jumping on Catherine's coattails here, but I absolutely had to post this song by Canadian singer/songwriter Craig Cardiff.

The fact that he has made something so beautiful out of something so terrible touches me very, very deeply and I'm so grateful that he has given life to this exquisite expression of love and pain.

SMALLEST WINGLESS

Dear One, we've been waiting for you.
We're thrilled, beside ourselves, that you've arrived.

White coats came in,
heads held low,
and talked for a bit, shuffled outside.

We closed the curtains and held each other,
and cried.
We said hello at the same time that we said goodbye.

The smallest and wingless,
leaving as soon as you arrived.
Sadness is just loved wasted,
with no little heart to place inside.

We closed the curtains and held each other,
and cried.
We said hello at the same time that we said goodbye.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The answer

Heather asked a good question in the comments yesterday: Will I always think of Thomas when I hold another newborn? Will time, and possibly another child of my own, ease that grief?

The answer is I just don't know. Time has already done incredible things for my soul. I'm so much more whole than I was for pretty much the entire first year after we lost Thomas, and despite the sorrow I write about here, my "real life" (the time I spent not blogging) is a pretty decent balance of hope and happiness, under the circumstances. Not just hope in terms of adding to our family, but hope in general. And I work very hard to wring as much happiness out of every day as I possibly can.

It may not appear as though I'm succeeding, but I really do try.

As far as holding new babies goes though, I think it will always remind me of holding Thomas, at least in some small way. I don't see how it can't. It's such a physical memory - the weight and warmth of a baby, the way your arms cradle it and protect it. The only way you can accurately conjure that up is to do it again - to hold another child. And since that doesn't happen all that often (even for the non-bereaved), the memory sneaks up on you. Your body forgets until it feels it all over again.

You can think you haven't forgotten the feeling of riding a bike, but it's only once you actually hop up onto the seat that you say, "Ah yes, now I remember."

I've heard a million older women with someone else's newborn in their arms say, "Oh, this takes me back! I can remember when my daughter/son was this size". It's no different for me. Why should it be?

What is different is that instead of the memory taking me back to a sweet, happy time, it takes me back to the tiny vacant office/storage room where we took turns holding Thomas as waited for him to die. That was the first time I held my child.

The first baby I held after Thomas was the hardest, and that memory hit me like a ton of bricks. But now when I see a baby (any size baby) I crave that contact. Yeah, it hurts like a mother fucker, but it's impossible not to want to hold a tiny little thing in your arms and rock it to sleep. It feels like my arms were built for that and, having been robbed of the chance, can't resist filling themselves up with sleepy babies at every opportunity.

I hope that if we someday have another baby I won't sit and think about Thomas every time I hold that child - every time I look at him or her - but I know it will be impossible not to sometimes. I will be seeing and experiencing everything I missed with Thomas. I will know then, in a very tangible way, what up until that point I'd only been able to imagine we lost when we lost him.

But if we didn't love Thomas so much - if we didn't know that kind of love existed - we wouldn't be trying to hard to find it again. We wouldn't be risking so much sorrow and putting our hearts on the line over and over again to bring new love into our home.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Thanksgiving weekend musings

You know you're completely domesticated when you have somehow memorized the expiration date of at least three perishables in your fridge.
__________

It seems very, very wrong to have the air conditioning running on Thanksgiving weekend. And yet we do. When it's 30C with the humidex I don't care WHAT day of the year it is, the a/c goes on.
__________

At least 5 friends, both real and "virtual" have given birth in the last month. The biggest baby booms always seem to hit when I'm struggling the most to keep my bereaved, barren head above water.
__________

I held a newborn baby this week. It was just the third time since Thomas died. She was small and sweet and felt so warm and soft as she fell asleep in my arms. It was love at first sight. I only wish it didn't bring back such vivid memories of holding Thomas, so still and quiet. But it did. I'm sure it always will. And that just has to be okay with all of us.
__________

This weekend I am thankful despite everything.
__________

It looks like the Mass of Remembrance at my church is a go! I'm nailing down a speaker for after Mass (from a local bereaved parents "ministry" organized by a church in a neighbouring city) and once I do everything else should fall neatly into place. My priest, who is both kind and unbelievably compassionate, agreed to virtually everything I proposed. Kind of makes me wonder why his boss doesn't seem to want to listen to me. Clearly my ideas aren't ALL bad...
__________

I can't wait for turkey. And then turkey again with the in-laws. And then turkey sandwiches. Me and my tummy are pretty easy to please.
__________

If I was shorter and had a good mask, it's entirely possible that I'd still go trick-or-treating.
__________

Every Halloween while I'm sitting in the darkened front room waiting for My Beloved to come home from work to join me in the door-answering extravaganza, I quietly tell Thomas what costume I'd have gotten for him, and how he'd have been the cutest little trick-or-treater on the street.
__________

The last few weeks has been difficult for me. The strange high I was on after the miscarriage has disappeared, as I suspected it would, and in its place is a bit of a delayed grief reaction. I was so happy to have survived the complications from the D&C (and so worried about my own health in the days following) that I think I blocked the whole horrible reality of the situation out of my head. And it has found its way back in. Fantastic.
__________

If I slept for a year it wouldn't seem like enough rest for my battered body and my ravaged mind. And that's grief in a nutshell.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I wasn't going to say a word

I went for my bloodwork this morning. I had to go to an independent lab outside the clinic for OHIP related reasons that still aren't particularly clear to me. I finally decided it wasn't worth trying to find a third person at the clinic to explain this to me in layman's (or crazy-bereaved-stressed-out-hormonal-fragile-tempermental-lady's) terms, so I found an independent lab and headed there this morning.

The drive was quick, there was plenty of parking, the wait was short, the phlebotomist was experienced and I barely felt a thing. Even though she sucked 9 vials out of me.

But then she opened her mouth.

I was happily looking at the crappy landscape photographs someone tore out of a real estate calendar and slapped up on the blood-letting room wall (yeah, that'll make me forget that you have a needle in my arm) when she started to pry.

"So, why are you having all these blood tests? Do they think you have lupus?"

Yeah, sure, go ahead and ask. It seems perfectly reasonable to try to worm information out of a quiet, sad-looking girl staring at the wall minding her own business.

You'd think after all this time I'd be good at dodging, but I'm tired these days. It's been a trying few weeks. My guard was down. So despite the fact that "____ REGIONAL FERTILITY CENTRE" was clearly marked on my lab requisition, I mumbled something about having some fertility issues.

And that, apparently, was her opening.

Listen up all you uterinely challenged ladies, all you mothers of dead babies - my phlebotomist has the answer you've been searching for:

You should go to Vegas.

Imagine that. After all this time, after all the perfectly timed sex, the dildocam monitoring, the Clomid, the HCG shots, the surgery, the miscarriages, the child buried a half hour from our house - after all that, turns out all we really needed to do was buy a ticket to Vegas.

It's what her daughter did. After 10 years of trying they gave up, went to Vegas last Christmas and had a baby boy on Friday. So clearly it works.

I quietly explained that our situation was a little more complicated. I mentioned Thomas and the Tigers and the complications during the D&C and watched as she avoided eye contact and stopped talking altogether.

And then I let her off the hook, asked about her new grandson and quietly left the office.

This is why I'm so tired. It just. Never. Ends.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Easy for him to say...

I blocked the whole idea of going back to the clinic to talk to my OB about what the hell happened and where to go from here out of my head, until I couldn't make the little voice inside my head stop screaming at me to just get it over with.

"Go in", it told me, "find out exactly how broken you are and how ridiculous it is to even consider thinking about trying again, let alone actually doing it."

So in we went.

But first, two weeks of stress dreams and nightmares that had my jaw in a permanent state of clench.

Thank God for an OB with compassion - or at least the good sense to fake it. He was very good to us, two weary travelers with worry lines etched into our tired faces and a lot more gray hair than we had when we started this process a thousand years ago.

One of the first thing he said was how horrendous these past few years must have been for us.

"You must have had some very dark days", he said softly.

"No kidding", I wanted to reply, but didn't.

Then we asked a million questions while he looked pained and admitted he didn't know - and couldn't know - the answer to most of them (you know, ones like "what are the odds of my dying if we try this again - and fail?").

He doesn't know why I bled. He doesn't believe he perforated my uterus during the D&C so his only explanation is that one or both of the placentas were very deeply embedded and the bleeding originated from the site where they came away from the uterine wall during the procedure.

He doesn't know if this could happen again, although he suspects it was a fluke (kind of like that pesky fluke-y abruption that killed Thomas and nearly me) and most likely won't happen again.

He doesn't think I have a luteal phase defect (and was reluctant to subject me to testing because the results tend to be somewhat inconclusive) but will treat me as though I do if I ever get pregnant again, just in case.

He doesn't think I have a clotting disorder, but ordered a ton of blood work just in case.

In place of concrete answers and assurances, there were a lot of "I don't knows" and "just in cases" - which is exactly what we were expecting.

People like to think that doctors have all the answers - that they can and should be able to stop babies from dying and miscarriages from happening. But the truth is they can't. Not all the time. And in my case, never.

We knew there would be a lot of shoulder shrugging and unanswered questions. We're used to that. Too used to that.

But still, it was good. It was good to talk to someone who cared, who understood our concerns, who sympathized with the fear and frustration we're feeling, who tried so hard to tell us everything we needed to hear, and who seems to want us to have a take-home baby almost as much as we do.

And in the end, even though we haven't made any decisions one way or another, it was good to hear that even though he's not sure why our little tigers didn't make it or why I bled like a stuck pig during the D&C, he doesn't think there's any reason for us not to consider trying again.

Easy for him to say.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sorrow upon sorrow

Sweet, wonderful, kind and compassionate Lisa (More Than My Share) lost her battle with cancer on Tuesday evening, surrounded by her husband and family. She miscarried two dearly loved babies in 2005, then struggled with infertility before finding out she had lymphoma late this spring.

More than her share indeed.

Thanks so much to Catherine for posting this message from Lisa's husband Greg, who now faces a life without a woman so many of us came to know and love through her words, her humour and her endless support.

When they put trying to have a baby on the back burner while she underwent chemo, she sent me a giant pack of OPKs she'd bought and hadn't had a chance to use. I used them the cycle I conceived the twins. She didn't know that. I never told her. When things went bad for us this summer I shut down and went into hibernation mode. There were so many e-mails of support I didn't respond to, and hers, God bless her, was one of them.

I'm just sick that I didn't tell her how much it meant that she reached out to me while she was in the throws of something so terrifying and, ultimately, so much bigger than what I was going through.

Even now, I'm wasting space talking about myself - assuaging my own guilt.

Lisa, I will miss you dreadfully. I'm sorry we found each other under the circumstances that we did, but I'm grateful and blessed to have had a chance to know you and to be carried along by your support and friendship for as long as I did.

God's speed, my friend.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Any suggestions?

I have a meeting with my priest tomorrow afternoon to talk more about my idea for a Mass/liturgy/prayer service for babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth and perinatal death.

If anyone has any suggestions at all for such a service, please e-mail me or leave me a comment here with your thoughts. I have some ideas I want to run by him, but I would love to hear from anyone who has been to such a service or helped organize one.

And if you've never been (I haven't either, by the way - I'm flying by the seat of my pants here) but, as a bereaved parent, know what you'd like to see and experience a ceremony dedicated to your lost children, please feel free to share that too. Every little bit of information will help me to present the very best possible plan to my priest tomorrow and, I hope, make for a very healing and memorable service.

Thanks so much.

Monday, September 24, 2007

It actually seemed like a good idea for a split second

We watch a lot of reality TV, My Beloved and I. Rocker Moms, 'Till Debt do us Part, Rich Bride Poor Bride, My Super Sweet 16, Wedding S.O.S, Nanny 911 - whatever happens to tickle our fancy, amuse us and/or make us feel a little less pathetic (there's nothing like watching people humiliate themselves on TV to make you feel better about your own particular lot in life).

Last night during during a commercial break we had the following conversation:

HIM (with a mischievous twinkle in his eye): They should do a show called "Sob Story".

ME: Sob Story?

HIM: Yeah, you go on and tell your sob story - like a Baby Story or Wedding Story but different - not so happy. And we could go on it.

ME: Ooooh yeah, and at the end of the show they turn your story into a happy one by giving you whatever it was that you lost. THAT'S how we could get a baby!

Oh the wacky, morbid humor of the childless and bereaved...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

But I'm still okay

We went to a Fall craft fair this afternoon, My Beloved, my sibling and I. Even though I was initially disgruntled by the unseasonably (and decidedly un-Fall-like) warm weather, it really was the perfect day for strolling along outdoor corridors lined with craft booths.

I could have spent a fortune, but I ended up leaving with a catnip toy for Lucy, a tiny stained glass stocking ornament for the tree, a bar of cranberry olive oil soap (sounds weird but smells wonderful) and pumpkin honey, courtesy of my sibling.

It was, as my Dad would say, delightful.

And the whole time I felt peaceful and happy. I enjoyed myself. Really and truly.

Yeah, my uterus ached a little whenever we passed a booth filled with gorgeous handcrafted baby clothes, but as long as I kept walking (at a good clip) and didn't let my eyes wander, it was okay.

The whole day was just so good. So much like old times - the old me.

The funny thing is, I'm not entirely sure why I'm still managing to feel so good. A spate of recent births has brought up some very vivid flashbacks over the past few days.

Without warning I find myself in the OR staring at the back of the hulking pediatrician as he instructs the team working on Thomas. His gown draped over the front of his massive shoulders, the ties dangling down his back. His hands on his hips, his body bent over the tiny, lifeless body of the son I can't see and haven't heard.

Or laying in my hospital bed splayed out like a thief about to be crucified as nurses try to find veins in my arms that hadn't collapsed while a small, humourless doctor staples up a leak in my incision.

Or looking out the bathroom window of my birthing suite at the dark, almost-spring sky and the snow drifted up in mounds along the side of the roof. Before the epidural, while I could still walk. While Thomas was still alive.

They keep popping into my head, these flashbacks. They usually end with a wince and a shake of my head as I force myself back to the present. Back to a life that somehow feels okay despite having memories like these.

I wonder if people who have normal births and take home live babies do this when they hear about three or four people giving birth within a few weeks of each other. I wonder if a volley of births does this to everyone or if it's just me - just those of us who didn't bring our babies home.

I don't know.

I wish I could quiet the memories. But at least they aren't intruding so much that they're ruining the progress I seem to have somehow made, against all odds.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Woe is me

And suddenly, without warning, I'm having one of those "why won't MY body do what it's supposed to??" kind of days.

Why won't my body keep any babies safe?

I will give a million dollars and my left arm to anyone who can come up with an answer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Insight

I wish some people understood things as well as D.H. Lawrence.

From Lady Chatterley's Lover:

"And dimly she realized one of the great laws of the human soul: that when the emotional soul receives a wounding shock, which does not kill the body, the soul seems to recover as the body recovers. But this is only appearance. It is, really, only the mechanism of re-assumed habit. Slowly, slowly the wound to the soul begins to make itself felt, like a bruise which only slowly deepens its terrible ache, till it fills all the psyche. And when we think we have recovered and forgotten, it is then that the terrible aftereffects have to be encountered at their worst."

Now there's a man who gets it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

And I lived to tell the tale

When we took down Thomas' nursery, we carefully packed away all of his things in big plastic tubs which have been sitting in the basement ever since, carefully stored on a large shelving unit at the bottom of the stairs.

Sometimes, in my haste to get out into the garden or grab a can of tomatoes off the pantry rack nearby, I'll fly by the shelves filled with his things without giving them a thought or glance. Other times I'll find myself standing in front of the collection of clothes and nursery items lovingly chosen for our little boy so long ago, running my fingers along the containers. Or just simply staring, arms dangling useless at my sides.

After two and a half years it somehow feels normal to have an assortment of brand new baby things for a child who never came home to use them. Not necessarily easy, but normal. And having them all tucked away in their own little spot in the basement meant they were safe. They couldn't be harmed, nor could them harm me. It was an excellent arrangement.

Over the years we've donated a few things here and there - things that I knew I wouldn't use for another baby and didn't feel sentimentally attached to - but probably 85% of Thomas' things are still down in the basement.

Waiting for a baby that never came home. And for more babies that may never come at all.

It's probably a self defense mechanism - or me finally facing what is rapidly becoming a likely conclusion to this four-year saga - but after I lost the twins I found myself thinking more and more about the possibility of the days of baby making being behind me. Not because I want it to be that way, but because it probably is.

No decisions have been made and no medical opinions are leading us in this direction. It just somehow feels like it's over in a way I can't exactly describe, but know I've never before felt.

It was those feelings that somehow made it possible for me to venture down into the basement, retrieve two tubs of the sweetest little baby clothes I've ever seen, and go through them to find a few outfits for a friend who just had a baby boy of her own. After two losses, she understands what it's like for dreams to turn into nightmares.

Those tubs have been sealed tight for two and a half years. And I've been dreading the moment when, for whatever reason, I had to open them up and come face to face with tangible evidence of Thomas' loss. Dozens of outfits, sleepers, receiving blankets, hats, booties, burp pads, towels and washcloths don't lie. A baby was supposed to live here. All those unused items - most still with tags on - tell the grim tale in a shockingly real way.

And so even though I desperately wanted to share some of Thomas' things with my friend and her son, I was terrified of what I had to do to achieve that end.

But the thing is, I survived. I more than survived.

I lugged two massive tubs upstairs one sunny afternoon last week, cracked the lids and found peace. I looked at all the sweet little fuzzy sleepers, the knitted blankies my Mom made, the t-shirt and sweater my sister brought back from Ireland - and by some miracle I found a measure of peace.

I felt sorrow too. There's no way to go through you dead child's things without feeling sorrow. But it was the peace that surprised me. Seeing his little clothes and remembering the shopping trips and showers that brought them to me was a joy. It's like the memory of 9 months of excitement have been trapped in those tubs all this time, just waiting for me to open them up and set them free.

What was also surprising was how easy it was for me to separate Thomas from a pile of unused baby clothes. They were his, but they're not him. Keeping them entombed in the basement won't bring him back.

The things he wore - the things that actually touched his tiny body - I will always keep. They're tucked away in his drawer upstairs. And the blankies from his Grandma will always have a home here, as will a few selected items that hold too much sentimental value for me to part with. But I can see now that if there's never going to be a baby in this house - if that's what the future does in fact hold - I can part with the rest of Thomas' things.

I hold him in my heart. That's where the most important part of him lives. It always did, I just didn't fully realize it until last week - until another little boy came into the world and helped me heal.