Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday in my head

I gleefully added our phone number to Canada's brand-spanking-new "DO NOT CALL" registry this morning.

And then immediately set to work editing a telemarketing script a client sent me.

Because, it seems, I am a conscienceless whore.


I Kissed a Girl has now replaced Jeremiah was a Bullfrog on my mind's inner play list.

Over and over and over it cycles through my brain. I kissed a girl and I liked iiiiiit!

What's worse is that I don't know most of the words (something about cherry Chapstick - or maybe it's cherry cola), but I sing it loud and proud just the same.

It seems like a perfectly reasonable anthem for a 38-year old married woman who lives in the suburbs and makes turkey chili while she edits telemarketing scripts.


This is the first telemarketing script I've ever edited, by the way. I swear.

Please don't send hate mail...


I bumped into a girl I knew in high school the other day coming out of the post office. I haven't seen her in probably more than 22 years.

We fell into an easy conversation almost immediately, and when I commented on her gorgeous four-month old baby she said softly, "It took us five years to get her."

I understood the love and pride in her eyes as she gazed at the evidence of her hard fought victory.

And I was happy.

Later I caused those eyes to fill with tears when I told her my own battle story, but she was kind and understanding. And not afraid.

Not afraid.

When we parted she said she was going to say a special prayer for me, and while I'm still hesitant to believe that prayers of this nature do anything at all, it gave me a lot of comfort.

Part of me almost believed her prayer might be answered.


We had a painter in last week to do our living/dining room. It has a vaulted ceiling and we figured it was best to leave that job to a professional, what with my fear of heights and My Beloved's fear of painting.

He wasn't in the house 15 minutes when I caught myself singing "In the Ghetto" up here in the office while doing some invoices.

Clearly I'm alone entirely too much. And have a lot of issues with that stupid inner play list...


I have already answered two telemarketing calls since I started writing this blog.

Divine retribution, I suppose.


My Dad's colonoscopy has still yet to be scheduled. My parents seem to be taking comfort in this - as though the delay means that they should somehow be less worried.

Me? I just worry that the delay is going to cost us in the end, and that the reason for the holdup is that they just don't hustle a 78-year old cardiac patient into a costly test procedure when someone younger and healthier might benefit from having it sooner. I think he just keeps getting bumped in favour of people they think deserve it more. From a this-is-an-old-guy-who's-living-on-borrow-time-anyway standpoint, I mean.

But the good news is that he has gone through the first three treatments for his macular degeneration and the doctor who gave him the first of three needles in his affected eye (eeew) said he's hopeful that they'll be able to reverse some of the damage.

No guarantees, of course, but hope is always welcome. Sometimes somewhat warily, but welcome just the same.


My toothless feline has pretty much fully recovered from the trauma of her recent dental work. She is as delightfully insane as always and is currently curled up on the pajamas I neglected to hang up this morning after I took them off.

Nothin' like kitty love. And furry jammies.


My Beloved is finally able to take some time off. After more than 9 straight months during which he's had just one day off (not counting weekends - although he's worked through a lot of those too, including almost every single long weekend of the summer) he's got a week off starting Friday!

I'm giddy.

We have no concrete plans, but sometimes a planless week off ends up being the very best kind of vacation.

I predict lots of lazy mornings, drives to see the changing leaves, day trips and just general guiltless slothfulness.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog

Don't you hate it when you get a song stuck in your head? Especially one you don't even like?

And it just won't. Go. Away.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It's dark in here

I was wandering through blogland last night catching up on blogs I haven't read in a long time (shame on me), and reading the news that I've missed while I've been quietly keeping to myself.

And, of course, there is pregnancy news - in a few blogs. Which somehow still always surprises me, as though I think since I'm still broken everyone else must be too.

But clearly this is not the case. In fact, in some cases these are second generation pregnancies - babies that have come after babies that came after a loss.

I'm so far behind. If I ran at the speed of light it feels like I'd still forever be so far behind, shackled to my infertility and dragging my busted uterus behind me.

Anyway, I stumbled across a blogger who is newly pregnant via a surrogate, and something interesting happened in my tiny little brain.

"That's okay then", I reasoned, "she's still broken too." It's fine for someone to be expecting a baby, apparently, as long as they aren't actually the one carrying it. Because that would make them whole and capable and fertile - all the things I'm not.

I'm not totally sure what this line of thinking says about me, but I'm pretty sure it's nothing good.

It all makes me wonder what it is about losing a child and dealing with infertility that makes it so hard to be happy for others who make it past the agonizing limbo of childlessness, or infertility after a loss.

I hate that I feel this way. I hate that time hasn't eased the feelings of sorrow and jealousy when someone else - even someone who has struggled - finds themselves pregnant.

It's so ugly. It's so unbearably ugly to think that I should feel anything other than complete joy and happiness for someone whose dream has come true when I know how bright and beautiful that dream is - and what devastation and havoc losing it wreaks.

And yet last night I found myself comforted that someone had to resort to surrogacy.

It's so unfathomably ugly that I'm even ashamed to write it (and, frankly, have no idea why I'm admitting it). But there it is. It seems that I have let go of none of the bitterness.

Maybe it's not surprising given the decrepit state of my own fertility, my advancing age, my reluctance to have "just one more" surgery to fix what allegedly ails me.

The trail of death and destruction in my wake.

Maybe it's normal to still feel this way. It probably is. But it doesn't change the fact that it makes me feel small and ugly and horrible.

Lest one be forced to surmise that there isn't one single ounce of goodness left in my battered soul, I should clarify that I do manage to feel joy for others. I do. But the bitterness is always following right on its heels. Not towards those who are pregnant, exactly, but more at the universe, at God, at fate - at whatever seems to be preventing me from finding my happy ending.

I just want my happy ending too

And seeing others get it reminds me of how much I want it. And how far I am from having it. And how close I once was. Four times.

I read about how healing it is to have a baby after a loss, and I rage against the universe for denying me that chance to heal. I read about how apparently you can't know the true depths of your sorrow until you hold another child of your own, and I rage against the universe for denying me the chance to complete my grieving process (although I also bristle at the suggestion that if I never have another child my sorrow is somehow less than someone who has gone on to have another baby - because I'm pretty sure that just ain't the case).

Today at Mass I watched an old lady gazing at someone's child the way old ladies do, with that serene, loving half-smile. And as I watched her, I realized that I will never be that old lady. I will never, ever be able to look at children with the simplicity of thought that many people do, a blissful smile playing on my lips. Other people's children will always remind me of my loss and my agony - of my own missing children. Even if one day I have another child.

But especially if I don't.

And I'm not at all happy that this bitterness seems to be planning to dog me for the rest of my life.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I was cleaning out my overflowing in tray this morning and found an old love note My Beloved wrote to me a week after our first date, a little more than 9 years ago. It's all raggedy and battered from the number of times I've read it and carried it around and held it to my chest and smiled.

His words have the lightness of feathers. He was so young and so completely unfettered by sorrow and tragedy. I can hear his joy. His hope. His love.

And what he wrote about me? The girl he saw through rose-coloured glasses? I sound like a completely different person too.

He once told me, long ago, that I was like a perfect doll that had somehow gotten thrown into a box of broken toys, ending up overlooked and unloved.

And I think about how battered and bruised and jaded I am and wonder if I'm now one of the broken toys too. I must be.

I am no longer the person he fell in love with. I'm not the girl he describes on that page.

I know that's how it goes. You fall in love with someone and together you grow old, facing everything life throws at you along the way; huddling close during storms and turning your faces to the sun when the skies clear. Things change you, both good and bad, and the bond deepens and strengthens - if you're lucky. And we are. We are.

But when I read the note I found myself missing those two people who were on the brink of a great romance, dizzy with the flush of new-found love. I miss their innocence and their optimism and the promise that they believed life held for them.

Luckily, with time and experience comes the ability to see the bigger picture.

Because even in the midst of our loss, we have somehow gained. Our love - older and wiser - is not less than it was simply because we're no longer those young, undamaged people we once were. It's actually very much the opposite. It's bigger and deeper than it has ever been because in many ways we have become one, united against our grief and in our mutual determination to find happiness. Together.

We are warriors now. Fighting for survival, sanity and peace.

I miss the man he was. But I love the man he is.

And when I need to, I have a silly love letter to remember once upon a time while I'm walking towards happily every after.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I miss you too

I loved shopping for Thomas when I was pregnant. The tiny, pessimistic voice in my head screamed, "But what IF" every time I handed over my credit card, but as the weeks and months wore on, I found myself more and more able to stifle it and revel in the sweet little outfits, blankies, toys and nursery accoutrement I brought home.

It was bliss. I still have bulging boxes of baby things packed away in the basement that prove just how much bliss I experienced during those precious 9 months.

At some point I ordered something from a website called Dreamtime Baby. I think it might have been his "man in the moon lamp", which I absolutely ADORED.

It's so cute I wish there was a way I could incorporate it into our decor now. But with no child in the house, it would no doubt elicit some odd, pitying looks from friends and family. So in the basement it sits.

Anyway, Dreamtime Baby, it seems, has a looooooong memory. More than 3.5 years after Thomas' birth and death I'm STILL getting regular sale reminders. I could take myself off their list - and that would obviously be the sensible thing to do - but after all this time the notices are more of an annoyance than a stab in the heart. For the most part. I just keep forgetting to click "unsubscribe" before I hit delete.

But today I won't forget.

Today they sent me a plaintive "We want you back" e-mail, and dangled a $15 coupon in my face.

Dreamtime Baby, I want you back too. But if I've learned one thing over the last five, desperate years, it's that we can't always get what we want.

So, dear Dreamtime Baby, it is with sadness and regret that I have to finally tell you that as much as we both might want it, you can't have me back.

Now please go away and leave me alone. I'm busy. I have moon lamps and bulging boxes to ignore.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In a fog

Bear with me. I'm a little lost in a sea of anxiety at the moment.

I really need to do the "Mind Over Mood" homework that Therapist Lady gave me. I really, really, really need to figure out how to roll with life's constant flurry of punches.

I'm just worried about my Dad. Scared that the test (as yet frustratingly not scheduled) will reveal something that I haven't prepared myself for.

Although one would think I'd be used to random shitstorms by now.

He has a very serious heart condition. He has had for years. So I always imagined the end would come in the form of "the call". Sudden, but not necessarily unexpected. I never, ever thought that his last years might be characterized by a slow, painful decline.

Complicated by blindness.

Yeah. Blindness. Only partial and in just one eye, but fuck - where did THAT come from?

It's not about me. It's about him. But I feel all this in my chest. In my head. In my heart. It feels like all I do is struggle and lose. And watch people suffer. And stand helplessly by while life pulls the energy from my body and hope from my soul.

It is a marathon, this life. A long, steady march through the unthinkable.

There is light. There is happiness and love and joy. But there is just so much struggle.

Too much.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Please, no more

Suddenly and without warning I found out that we're waiting to find out if my Dad has cancer. The bomb dropped on Tuesday. He might not. He probably doesn't. It could be a medication he's on that caused the false positive. It could be a couple of other things, according to the good doctor.

But it could be cancer. It could.

And today I took Lucy to the vet to have some dental work done. In the end, they took out four teeth. Four more teeth from my impossibly sweet and now nearly-toothless companion.

The receptionist laughed when she answered the phone at 1:04pm. She said she knew as soon as it rang that it would be me - calling as soon after 1:00pm as I could - asking how the surgery went.

She was kind. She clearly deals with animal-loving lunatics all day long. But make no mistake, I presented myself as a complete nutcase today. Without question.

The thing is, I'm worried that my Dad has cancer and I had to surrender the only tiny little thing I have in my care to the cruelty of dental surgery and the uncertainty of anaesthetic.

I am a nutcase at the moment.

I would cry "Uncle", but I just don't have the energy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One Day I Will Lie Down Beside You

From today's Toronto Star...

This week, TouchWood Editions publishes Nobody's Father: Life Without Kids – a collection of essays by men. Today, part three of a five-day series of reprinted essays from the book.

Our only child, Josh, died from cancer and now we are alone, in our house, and in ourselves. And yet we do go ahead with work and friendships, we laugh and sometimes tap our feet to a tune or get involved with a film or with travelling, with teaching, with caring for someone else's children. We breathe in the hard peacefulness that is borne out of the 10 years that spanned our son's diagnosis, hope, relapse, terminal diagnosis, death and then our living after his death.

My heart is 100 years old. I can sit and let the light warm my face today, I can listen to the "Flower Duet" and catch the milliseconds of silence between the notes and know that peace exists. I can look at the farthest edges of the sky and know that something is beyond all that. I can sit comfortably in his room and absorb the calmness, feel it making my heart heavier, richer.

Reader, I want to tell this story: it is what I have left of him, a narrative as unwieldy and disjointed as life itself. You can learn from this.

I remember a business conference in Chicago in the fall of 1983. I got the call that the baby was early, so I hopped on a flight, arriving in Vancouver four hours late. When I saw Josh in an incubator, I cried. He was fine; just a bit jaundiced and premature. Sandy was already able to walk around; she had been so collected and natural that she took photos during the delivery, using the overhead mirror.

I remember bringing Josh home a few days later, getting out of the hospital, into the car and into the apartment, wrestling with the confusing physical tasks of first-time parents. As soon as we closed the apartment door, I felt a clear line of demarcation: he was now with us, and everything changed.

I remember Sandy making him an orange spaceman Halloween costume. When someone asked him who he was, he would say, "Orange spaceman Eliot Wilson happy 2-year-old son Joshua." The next year she made him into a blue corduroy stegosaurus with spikes, a hood and a tail.

"Don't you think it's neat to have a mum like me to make you a costume?" Sandy asked him.

"Don't you think it's neat to have a kid like me?" Josh answered.

I remember the "Summer of Josh," as he called 1997: a February trip to Disney World, a summer drama camp with a part in A Midsummer Night's Dream and a week of rafting, biking and camping in the mountains.

I remember the next winter, his physical education teacher telling us: "If I were to have another son, out of all the students I know, I would want him to be like Josh."

I remember that in March Josh started to have a sore knee. We thought it was growing pains. It began to hurt more often: after a ski trip, after delivering papers, after slipping on an icy sidewalk. Then at school another boy checked him hard during floor hockey and he went down in pain. Sandy took him to the clinic for X-rays. Then we crossed that invisible line.

It was a cold spring afternoon when Sandy called me. Before she said anything, I knew something was terribly wrong.

"Josh has cancer." The words hit me in the chest.

"The doctor says it's 99 per cent certain. It's above his right knee. We have to go to the Children's Hospital tomorrow."

"How is he?"

"He cried a bit. He's okay now. We'll be home soon."

I hung up the phone and tried to let the information settle. I had to sit down. There was a tightening across my chest, inside my breathing. I came to the realization of any frightened parent: I would do anything for my child. I would cut off my hands if that would help.

But nothing worked. I look back on the 22 months that followed as the hardest journey ever. Diagnosis, treatment, amputation, treatment, reprieve, relapse, terminal diagnosis, death. And since I had to support Josh, to find ways to be with him and distract him and have a few cramped bits of comfort and laughter amid the fear, I could not give way to my pain in his presence. Although he knew how hurtful it was for me, we faced the facts but tried to find ways to enjoy what little time we had.

When went to the hospital for the last time he soon began to drift away. By morning, he could only keep awake and respond for a few seconds; the rest of the time he was babbling as the tumours on his heart and lungs restricted the oxygen to his brain.

We made the phone calls and gathered around him on that last morning. We told him how much we loved him, how he was such a wonderful son. By 12:45 he could no longer respond to questions and I turned his head toward me.

His eyes were looking at me, but it was as if he were asleep. I looked at Sandy and said, "He can't respond any more."

A minister came and said a prayer: all I remember was that it was about God. A nurse from the cancer clinic came in and suggested we give him a bolus, an extra hit of pain medication. His breathing remained shallow and fast for the next 15 minutes.

Now there was only Sandy and me, Josh's friend Matt and Matt's father. Others waited in the hall. I felt calm, watching his chest rising and falling while I held his hand.

Soon there was more space between his breaths. And then I watched as he took a breath, paused, took a breath, paused, took a breath, paused longer, took a breath, paused longer, took a breath – and then not another. His chest was still. I looked to Sandy and we nodded. I turned to Matt and said, "He's gone."

We were silent. The nurse came in with a stethoscope, put it on his chest, nodded to us and went out. I shook a bit, had tears at the edges of my eyes but was calm.

Sandy went outside to tell those waiting. I remember looking at Josh as he lay peacefully with the grey window light on his face, the delicate frost on the trees outside. I thought, "Well kid, you made your mark, you really did this well."

Two and three at a time, his friends came into the room. A few shook with grief and all shed a lot of tears, but I was turned away from them, stroking my son's hair. I told them the briefest details of how he died: his heart wore out, it slowed down and stopped, it was peaceful.

Focus on these seven words for a moment: bereaved parents have an indifference to life.

Psychologists and psychiatrists who have no direct experience with such a loss would prescribe medication, analysis, counselling. They believe indifference indicates suicidal tendencies, but that is not the case. It is a sort of lifelong tiredness. As one bereaved father said to me, "I just want to lie down beside her." I know what he means and I know him well. He is energetic in most things, a good father for his surviving child and a responsible husband. He will not purposefully give up living, but if his life should end soon through no plan of his own, he wouldn't be overly concerned.

I returned to teaching after several months. Initially nervous about resenting healthy, obnoxious students who had every physical advantage but weren't living up to their potential, I hid the brief times of anger.

Over the years, I have found myself becoming a better teacher, reaching out to the students more than ever. I wrote a book to guide them, Standards of Excellence: for Students of Life.

Sandy has had some difficult times, as all bereaved parents have.

She loved being a mother and was so good at it and then it was taken away. There was nothing to do, the doctors did their best and only the fantastic luck of having an X-ray of my son's leg four months before diagnosis could have possibly saved him – the tumour was already six inches long when they first saw it. After many stops and starts, she has found providing daycare to little ones the most fulfilling. She volunteers and keeps socially active.

We are more respectful to each other than we were before the diagnosis. I know of the hurt I went through and everyone grieves differently, but I know her pain is equal to mine. Whatever she has to do to maintain equilibrium, to get through the day, is acceptable.

Although this half-life we have is quieter and emptier, in some ways we are now better at living together.

And so it comes back to you, dear son. Here I sit in the quiet of the study, surrounded by books, tapping away on the keyboard, looking around the room and counting the photos of you: more than a dozen from your short, brilliant 16 years. This mountain of hurt and loss is now part of my landscape. I think of you often, your jokes and smiles and friendship. I can imagine part of you is in the delicate light of sunset at the unseen edge of clouds, beyond even the clouds I can see.

I will keep going, teaching, writing and trying to help others. Just as you bravely lived 22 months with a deadly disease, I will try to turn this into a meaningful experience. And, one day, I will lie down beside you.

Allan Wilson is a teacher and writer living in Lethbridge, Alta. His play, Walking Upright Through Fire, has been performed in Lethbridge, Calgary, Toronto and Saskatchewan. His book, Standards of Excellence: for Students of Life, was published by Blue Grama Publications. He is working on a novel and a screenplay.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I had a great big cry for Thomas this morning, which is something I haven't done in a while. It always amazes me that my loud, angry, weeping grief is still so easy to access.

Admittedly, sometimes it shocks me a little too.

It makes me feel like the only thing between the composed, healing, functioning me and the open wound of my sorrow is a thin layer of gauze.

I don't feel like I'm walking the razor's edge. I don't feel especially weak. I don't feel fragile. But the truth is, that deep pool of sadness is still right under the surface just waiting for me to peel back the film and find it again. The rawest, most primal agony.

And then my heart screams for my son.

When it's finished, I lay the gauze back down, dry my tears and carry on.

I suppose that's the anatomy of a sorrow that can't possibly ever end; an infinite black pit with a gossamer cover.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The sound of silence

"Any babies to speak of?" was the last in a series of I-haven't-talked-to-you-in-seven-years questions a newly acquired Facebook friend recently asked. We knew each other when we worked for the same advertising agency a thousand years ago. She found me, friended me and asked me what was new.

In that explicit, gut-churning way that always give me pause while I debate exactly what to say and how to say it.

And think I did. Long and hard. I considered sending her a private message instead of replying to her query on her wall (which is where she posted the questions to me), but finally I decided that if I had living children I wouldn't respond in a way that made it appear as though I was somehow ashamed of them. Or wanted to hide them.

I took the risk. With courage and pride I told her exactly what I'd been up to. That no, there were no living babies. But there were dead ones.

But, of course, I said it differently. I used the language the non-bereaved find palatable. I was quick, succinct and to the point. Not morose. Not self-pitying. Just the facts.

And I haven't heard from her since.

Not a whisper.

She's been on Facebook. I've seen her online. She has, of course, read what I left on her wall. She has to have.

And either she doesn't know what to do with it, or I've somehow upset her by posting something sad and creepy on her wall.

But she asked. And this is my truth. And I won't apologize for it or hide it.

I. Will. Not.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Boy Wonder

Thomas - the very idea of Thomas - is now almost an abstract thing. He was a child, yes, but in his death he has become somehow so much more. Bigger. Complicated. Intangible. Undefinable.

It's hard to explain and even harder to articulate, but I think this strange feeling of abstraction is unavoidable because he represents so many things. He's so much more than just the tiny bundle I held in the hospital wrapped up tight in his going home blankie.

He is the embodiment of our love and has been the bearer of exquisite gifts. But he's also the source of our grief and the reason we trudge so slowly some days.

He is our love, our sorrow, our lost hope, our joy. He is somehow everything.

As the years pass, I'm able to see more clearly what exactly it was that we lost when he died. What we will spend the rest of our lives losing every single day. Because make no mistake, when your child dies, you lose them every second of every day for as long as you live. Over and over and over again.

He's a contradiction in terms. A being whose very existence elicited so much exquisite bliss and so much dark despair.

He's not just my lost child. He's a million emotions. He's my son. My pride. My angel. My sorrow. Sometimes, my secret. He's the thing some people are afraid of. He's the name some people won't speak. He's the moment that my life changed. He's the saddest I've been and the happiest I've been. He's friends who have walked away and friends who steadfastly refuse to leave.

His 20 hours has given me new eyes. Changed my heart. Made me weak. Made me strong.

I live with the weight of his life and death each and every day. Happy. Sad. It colours everything. Everything I do, everything I see. How I speak. How I feel. How I think. How I breathe.

But sometimes, when I see a child his age, he becomes real again. He becomes a 3 1/2 year old boy. I see his smile. His eyes. I feel his hand in mine. I see My Beloved. I see me. I see what we were too many hospital delays away from having.

And then, in an instant, it's gone and he is once again that mysterious collection of contradictory emotions, fractured memories, and the dull, quiet ache in my heart. All tied up with the most unimaginable love I've ever felt.

Baby loss is a mystery. An unending, ever-changing, unsolvable mystery.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Family Tree of Grief

Novelist Elizabeth McCracken was living a fantasy life in France with her husband, eagerly anticipating the birth of their first child whom they'd nicknamed Pudding. When she learned her baby would be stillborn her world fell apart. Searching for a geographic cure for her sadness, the author writes in this excerpt from her new book, she found an unexpected community.

An excerpt from Elizabth's book, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir (which I am now going to have to immediately run out and purchase).

But first...

To all the mothers of dead babies who I have found in my travels online and in the world, and to whom I owe so much credit and thanks for where I am today, I just want to say that, like Elizabeth McCracken, I love you in a way that no one who has not walked in our shoes can ever begin to understand.

And I will always, always remember.

Monday, September 08, 2008

I remember...

On August 21st of last year, I lost the twins. My tiny Tigers who we desperately willed to live over and over again. Who we begged to be more than just empty sacs. Who gave us the kind of hope and joy we hadn't felt in more than two years.

I finally had a D&C at 12 weeks after a compassionate OB took pity on us and put us out of our collective misery.

The day passed without me remembering until late in the evening. A flash. The date. My sorrow.

I felt a flicker of guilt, but the thing is, we lost them countless time during the 6 weeks I knew I was pregnant. We rode the roller coaster of hope and despair so many times - being told they were fine, being told there was nothing there, being told there was "something" there, being told that there was, finally and conclusively, no hope at all.

We mourned and hoped so much during those torturous 6 weeks that the date I finally said goodbye doesn't seem particularly momentous at all.

Plus, it was complicated by hemorrhaging and a hospital stay.

'Cause that's how I roll.

But I do think of them, my little Tigers. I sometimes stop and marvel at my body's ability to get pregnant with twins without any help at all. And I revel in a brief flush of pride - until it is replaced by anger at this same body's inability to do what it should. What it was allegedly born to do.

And, of course, I think of what might have been.

I realized, a few weeks after the D&C, that I had unconsciously named them. I called them the "Tigers" while I was pregnant, but after they were gone, I started thinking of them as Molly and Joseph. A boy and a girl.

And the names stuck.

We don't actually know what they were, of course, but they are Molly and Joseph to me - for absolutely no good reason other than the fact that names seemed to want to belong to them.

And today, more than a year after they came and went, I wanted to say that I remember.

And I love you, little ones.

Friday, September 05, 2008

I didn't choose this

Sometimes, when I'm in the mood to delve, I sit and think - really think - about what my life might be like if there's never another child.

Will it be enough, I wonder. Will I find fulfillment in other things? In other ways? In other journeys?

Will I eventually one day feel complete, or will this nagging feeling that a piece is missing ever go away?

I stumbled across a "childless not by choice" chat board a few months ago, and lingered for a few minutes. Just long enough to browse through a "what will your legacy be" thread where members were exchanging ideas on how to ensure that you've changed the world without leaving it a child.

It was both inspiring, beautiful and desperately sad.

They certainly weren't looking for pity - mine or anyone's. They were people, it seemed, for whom the childless reality wasn't so fresh it was still oozing. They had passed over to a place of acceptance and were almost excited about planning for ways to leave their mark - and eager to share those plans.

But yet, it still seemed sad to me that people have to think so hard - work so hard - to fill that void. No matter how much they've accepted their fate and moved past the rawest part of the sorrow.

I know that having a child isn't the only way to "leave a legacy". Millions of people live and die without having children, and their stories live on. Their contributions to history, art, literature, science - to the world - they remain for generations.

You can touch a life without using a child to do it. You can touch thousands of lives. Millions.

But you have to look for it. Work for it.

Which, under the circumstances, doesn't seem fair at all.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The new me

I have so many thoughts rattling around in my head lately. And that's fine - better lots of thoughts than none at all - but every time I think I'll sit down and sort them out, a whole new pack push in and scatter the crowd.

But one thought that seems to keep pushing its way to the front of the pack - a thought that has been slooooooowly dawning on me these days - is that I don't have to pretend that everything is as it was. That things don't bother me now. That nothing is harder than it used to be. That I'm always okay in every single situation.

When I asked, hypothetically, what people think of me now - what they see when they look at me - a friend recently told me that they probably don't think anything at all. Because, she explained, after three years they likely just think "I'm over it."

She fought an epic battle with infertility. She knows you don't "get over" things like struggling in vain to make your family complete.

But I was startled to think that other people may simply assume that I'm fine - all back to normal - just because I can and do manage to function. And because the calendar has flipped 41 times since Thomas died.

On the one hand I'm happy to think that I look and act like a person who has her shit together. This is excellent news. But on the other hand, I was very taken aback by the notion that people might truly believe that trauma as terrible and aching as losing a child simply slips away like smoke up a chimney.

But I suppose I have myself to blame. I'm an enabler. I've been a "grin and bear it" baby loss survivor, subjecting myself to things I wasn't ready for in order to make other people more comfortable. And, admittedly, in order to deflect attention from my sorrow in a desperate attempt to shut down the great, big pity machine that makes me want to run screaming into the night.

I'm not a saint. I did what I did for me - because it made me feel better to make other people feel better. And because it made me feel like I must seem more "normal" in their eyes. More like the old me they used to know. And I wanted to be that girl. Badly.

But I think I'm slowly accepting the fact that she died with Thomas. In fact, part of her died with that very first miscarriage nearly five years ago. And pieces of her have died with each loss and with every moment I have struggled with infertility.

And that's okay.

I mean, it's not okay that all this happened. Of course not. But it's okay that I have changed. Because how on earth could I not? How do you lose your heart five times and remain unchanged?

Now my challenge is to let this new person be. To let her feel what she feels without guilt. To help her understand that she is brand new in a million different ways. To allow her to advocate for herself and stand up to ignorance.

To teach her to embrace herself with kindness, respect and love.