Friday, January 22, 2010

It doesn't matter how gentle you are, Dr.

I think it's safe to say that nobody likes the dentist. But I've found an interesting challenge in dentistry these days.

Let me backtrack...

I had braces when I was 12. And before the braces, four molar extractions. All at the same time. Which resulted in a low grade fever and a bloody, drooling mess of a girl. After that, followed by the agony of a year of orthodontic torture in the form of regular brace tightening (which, I'm positive, is some modern relative of medieval torture), there was very little a dentist could do to scare me.

I laughed in the face of the buzzing drill. I scoffed at Novocaine. I rolled my eyes and sighed at any and all scaling, scraping and prodding using pointy little wands.

Until five years ago.

I had dentistry conquered. And smugly so. But then one day I found myself lying on an operating table hearing the words, "We're having a little trouble stopping the bleeding", and everything changed.

My baby died. And hell folded in on me.

There were complications. Nasty, life-threatening complications. And a few days later there was a moment when I was laying splayed out on my hospital bed waiting for an OB to come fix my leaky c-section wound while two other nurses searched desperately for viable veins in each arm in which to pump the drugs keeping the infection at bay when I completely lost it.

And I've never recovered it.

Fertility treatments added to the weight of the cumulative trauma. As did a subsequent lap, and a D&C that required an overnight stay complete with a balloon catheter in my uterus to stop yet another bout of bleeding after yet another loss.

And so now, when the most gentle dentist I've ever known leans over me to do routine (albeit still unpleasant) dental work, it takes deep breathing, an unwavering focus on my happy place, and absolute nerves of steel to keep from succumbing to the panic of not being in control.

Such a familiar panic.

Which is why I've put off dentistry for a while. And why, in turn, I have a solid month of weekly appointments to deal with the neglect.

The mind is ever fascinating. Secret panic kept locked away always manages to snake its way out. But, I suppose, there's nothing like four weeks of immersion therapy to deal with it.

Monday, January 11, 2010


It takes so much energy to chase away the unfounded guilt that I still occasionally find lurking in my head.

I've worked hard to distinguish unfounded guilt from real guilt, so much so that now I can feel it. I know it by its weight, and height, and breadth. I can actually feel it taking up space. In my neck. In my shoulders. On my back.

Today I made my Mother cry. Now, in my defense, it doesn't take much to make my mother cry. She is one of those people whose protective armor is about as strong as cheap cling wrap. And with good reason. She has lived a difficult life in many ways, and is certainly no stranger to the kind of tragedy that crashes in on an otherwise quiet existence, turning it upside-down and inside-out.

But still, I made her cry.

We were talking, in a round about way, about Thomas. About our common sorrow, and how it affects your views of life and death. About the curious ambivalence you have towards both once someone so wee and dear is taken from you.

And, she cried. She choked back tears as she told me that she has nothing to look forward to because what we all thought was going to be our future was suddenly gone one sunny March day. She said part of her died that day too.

And she cried.

And I sat stupidly mute on the other end of the phone searching for the right words. Because I'd made her cry.

And I felt responsible for her grief. For who she is grieving for, and for what she now knows is never coming. For the future she lost so many times over.

It pressed me down to the bed. Held me there. Sat on my back and tried to suffocate me in the blankets.

But I am not responsible for this. In the smallest voice I have, I quietly told guilt that it isn't my fault. That I can't do more than I have. That I can't risk more than I have. That I cannot be held responsible for someone else's sorrow.

I pushed back. I stood up. I shook it off.

But I made my mother cry.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


The other night I was thinking about writing a "benefits of living a childless life" list, because one point popped into my head and I thought if I concentrated hard enough, more would follow.

The part of me that works hard to please everyone and piss off no one (must be liked; above all else, must. be. liked.) worries that this will sound like a big vat of whiny sour grapes at best, and smugly bitter at worst.

But the part of me that struggles daily to come to terms with this unplanned life is shouting louder today, so here goes:

1. We can (and do) venture out at all hours to wander through the neighbourhood on evening walks together.
2. Our rooms aren't decorated with anything in bright primary coloured plastic.
3. We only trip over our own toys.
4. We can (and do) lay about and read quietly on the weekends.
5. I never have to watch any DVD more than once unless I want to.
6. I don't have an endless loop of nonsensical songs sung by adults in matching jumpsuits playing in my head 24/7.
7. I can have a bath all by myself.
8. I can light candles without worrying that someone is going to get singed.
9. We can put breakables wherever we want.
10. We can stay out as long as we want.
11. We don't have to remember to spell out certain taboo words.
12. We can swear with reckless abandon.
13. No one here randomly pukes, pees or poos on floors, carpet or bedding.
14. We rarely get sick.
15. No one here hates going to bed.
16. No one here hates eating (we have the opposite problem...).
17. There is silence when we need it and only the occasional tantrum.
18. We enjoy uninterrupted sleep.
19. Our car is only dirty because we made it so.
20. No one requires entertaining (okay, sometimes I do...but that's My Beloved's problem).

There. Twenty things.

And yes, I know the list on the other side of the equation is far longer. But the fact remains that if you look hard enough, you can find just enough material to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

It might not be a pretty purse, or one you ever really wanted to use in the first place, but it can be done.

Even though I'd trade everything on this list in a nanosecond for just one great big hug from my boy, I still think it's a decent list. And a valuable exercise too.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Since you asked

I generally don't directly address comments here, for no other reason than it feels kind of strange in some way - like we should be stepping into another room and talking privately, even if the conversation isn't something that actually needs to be private.

But in lieu of actually having a room to step into...

Alex, thank you for your comment. I do understand that you meant no harm, and that you're simply puzzled by my desire for a child and my unwillingness to take additional steps to have one, biologically or otherwise.

The simple answer is: you can't always get what you want. And you have to be wise enough to know when enough is enough - when trying to get what you want means peeling away the last remaining protective layer around your heart and mind, leaving yourself completely exposed with absolutely no guarantee that you haven't just pulled the grenade pin.

Yes, we wanted a child. Children, plural. We lost five of them trying. I could list, in great gory detail, all the steps - the surgeries, ER visits, fertility treatments, catastrophic (and life-threatening) complications, mental and physical damage - that collectively make up our attempts to bring home a live child since we started trying in 2003.

I could, but I won't. Because it probably wouldn't help you to understand. You need to feel what I feel. You need to have seen what I've seen. And there's no way to do that save to climb inside my head and sit there awhile amidst the memories, grief, guilt, fear, and frustration.

I just don't have anything left. My proverbial tank is empty.

We are spent. And so, instead of pushing ourselves to the breaking point by undertaking yet another potentially fruitless campaign, we're choosing instead to live the life we were given. We have learned the hard way that there are no guarantees, and we just don't have it in us to take anymore leaps of faith with our fingers crossed, hoping for a happy ending.

We leapt, Alex. Trust me. Over and over again we've held hands, closed our eyes and leapt.

The thing is, we have happy, right here. Yes, it's a childless version of happy. And yes, I'm bitter and angry sometimes, even still. Clearly. But we do have happy. It's our weird version of it, but it works.

We laugh like idiots. We hold hands when we're out for walks. We send stupid e-mails to each other during the day. We snuggle close at night. We indulge in the simple things that make us happy and let us forget, for just a while, that there are things that make us sad.

And why shouldn't we be allowed to have that fragile peace we've so carefully carved out of the mountain of grief we were handed?

You can't always get what you want. So, as they say, the secret is wanting what you've got.

And that's what we're trying to do. Every day. We know this isn't what we planned. We know there are other options. But this is what we have to do, for a million reasons no one but My Beloved and I will ever totally understand.

I get that people will always look at us wonder why, and I get that it probably seems frustratingly simple when you're on the outside looking in.

But from here on the inside, things look very different.

I guess the short answer to your question is that I have done everything I can. It may not look like it to you, but I have.