Tuesday, April 20, 2010

40. Whattaya know.

What half drunk, whiny-ass attention whore wrote that post yesterday?

It couldn't have been me as I am perfect in every way.

So, as it turns out 40 doesn't feel any different than 39. Not a bit. I still have bags under my eyes and a disturbing amount of gray in my hair. I still love and am loved by my wonderful family and friends. I still play with yarn and dig in the dirt every chance I get. A fat, furry little black and white kitten and his fat old tabby striped sister both still purred for me this morning. A man I adore whispered that he loved me using the endearing nickname he gave me 11 years ago. I still miss my boy. I still find peace in the sound of the birds singing on a spring morning. I'm still neurotic with a dash of OCD. I'm still shy but experienced enough to hide it well. I still find Peter Boyle's song and dance number in Young Frankenstein fall-off-the-couch funny, even though My Beloved doesn't get it. I still wish I didn't have a busted uterus. I still secretly think that if someone important heard me singing in the shower or in my car I'd get a recording contract like that. I still like pancakes on Sunday morning. Orange and red autumn leaves still take my breath away. I still eat chocolate chips when I've run out of proper chocolate. And speaking of chocolate, sometimes I still have dessert after breakfast.

I'm not a girl anymore. The 30s beat that out of me. Soundly.

But I'm still here.

And so yeah, 40's not so bad. Not at all.

Monday, April 19, 2010

On the eve of 40

Good Lord. 40 tomorrow - which seems wholly impossible since I was just 16 five minutes ago. I swear.

I've decided to start the celebration early. I'm finishing up a glass of baco noir (yeah, blogging whilst drinking) and enjoying the gentle wine-y buzz of a late afternoon tipple. Although I may have just swallowed a fruit fly. I don't care, but I might have.

And speaking of birthdays...

The thirties were, to be perfectly honest and rather blunt, one long and horrific bloodbath of a decade. Seriously, from 33 on. I'm glad to be rid of them. With the exception of marrying My Beloved, the 30s were the worst 10 years I've ever known. The 30s taught me that my body is thoroughly and completely inadequate - that it won't support life. The 30s brought me the greatest sorrow I have ever known, and with it the incurable and lifelong plague of endless guilt. And a crisis of confidence too. One that seems to leach into every area of my life.

The 30s were a bitch.

I became a mother, yes. And I am endlessly grateful for ever single second I had with Thomas. And I would do it all again for each one of those blissful moments.

But I am not the mother I intended to be. Let's not kid ourselves. This is not how it was supposed to be. This is not how it should have turned out, dammit.

Last night I got thinking about what it might be like if I find myself in my dad's situation one day: 80, hospitalized, desperately sick.

In the first few weeks of his illness, I kept saying how glad I was that our children would never worry the way I have - that they'd never find themselves lying prone on the floor, sobbing at the thought of me weak and confused in a hospital bed.

Because, of course, all our children are dead.

And still, I was comforted by the fact that they would be spared this anguish. 

I know all the flaws in this logic. I do. Yeah sure, I won't be worrying my kids when I'm old and frail, but I also won't have had the benefit of all that extra love in my life. The extra life in my life.

Every time I go into the hospital I take my dad a coffee and a newspaper. Simple pleasures he can now, finally, enjoy. And I get him a fresh cup of ice water, clean up his room a bit and ask if there's anything else I can do. Anything else I can bring. Any other way I can make him more comfortable.

Last night it dawned on me that there will be no one who cares enough about me to do this when I'm old. We have nieces and nephews, of course, but they have parents. They are not obligated to act as surrogate children when we're old, and I would never expect them to.

And so I'm quietly tortured by the notion that I'm going to be all alone one day and no one will come to see me. No one will be there to get me a fresh drink or find me a warmer blanket or stroke my arm and tell me how much they love me.

This is what it means to have no children.


I realize people don't procreate in order to supply themselves with a nursing staff for later in life. But it's certainly one of the fringe benefits of growing people who love you - who would do anything for you, like I would do for my mom and dad. They will always love you, your children. They will always be there for you. Unless they're not. Unless they're dead.

So, friends, this is what the 30s brought me: fodder for my midlife crisis. Fueled by baco noir.


Happy birthday to me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's all we can do

I read a blog yesterday that has had me thinking ever since. No mean feat given how busted up my weary brain is these days.

The blogger was wondering aloud if she still belonged in the dead baby mama"club" since, after losing her first child, she has gone on to have a second, and is now pregnant with her third. Her concerns seemed to be for those of us who are still childless, who she believes may not think she belongs anymore because she is a live-child mother.

I'm not going to lie. I have thought a lot about the whole "us vs. them" situation over these last few years of childlessness. There are just a small handful of us left who have lost and not been able to gain. We are the minority, and not an especially vocal one, for the most part. We often just watch from the sidelines, unsure of what to say or do next. In life, not just in blogland.

It's part of the reason I quietly disappeared from the blogosphere last summer. We'd decided to stop trying, I wasn't parenting living children, and having lost the last of my babies two years earlier,  I just didn't know what was left to say - or who was left to read any of it anyway.

We move on. It's what we do, we baby loss survivors.

So I faded away. Until I realized that there are still volumes left to speak. Of course there are.

Because, as it turns out, moving on doesn't mean you have nothing more to say. You just have different things to say instead - a whole different voice to go with your whole new life. And for me, it's all about coping with a life that looks nothing like I expected it would. It's about grieving for my lost children, sure, but it's also about grieving for my lost family. I constantly find myself contemplating what that loss will look like when I am old. When, maybe, I am well and truly alone.

We are not what you'd expect. We are two - not three, four or five as we might have been had things been different.

And yes, in many ways I do feel like I don't belong in the same category as the babyloss mothers who have gone on to have living children. I can't understand their new world anymore than they can understand mine. But I'm also uncomfortable with the notion of putting people into categories and neat little boxes. I feel different enough without actually defining and labeling myself as such.

We're all different. Even amongst those who have gone on to have living children there are differences. I'm sure this must be true.

We come from a common place of grief, but we fan out from there, moving along different paths, in different directions and on into different lives as we continue to cope with our loss and sorrow in the best ways we know how.

My road brought me here, to a childless existence with My Beloved and our motley collection of felines. Sometimes I limit my exposure to pregnancy, babies and children when my heart is feeling too tender. Sometimes I seek out ways to interact with the children around me whom I love when that same broken heart is aching for contact with wee ones. Because my soul still longs to mother, even after all this time.

I think it's about respecting each others' journeys and recognizing that we're all doing the best we can with the burden of sorrow we were handed. Until someone gives me a manual for this grief, all I can do is what feels right for me. And that's all I expect from my sisters in sorrow.

We do the best we can. All of us.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

And finally...

...some good news.

Although I'm hesitant to broadcast it, lest the spiteful gods hear me and snatch it all away again, it seems like my dad is finally on the mend. As mended as an almost 80-year who is patched together with spit and tape can be, that is.

He's still in that godforsaken hospital - 5 weeks today - but he's now lucid almost 100% of the time,  receiving physiotherapy in preparation for leaving the hospital, and slowly but surely getting all his health issues sorted out. Including the new ones introduced by the stellar staff and the hospital's motley collection of germs and bacteria.

Don't get me started.

I can't even count the number of times I was sure this wouldn't end happily. I've never seen him look so old, frail or sick - some days so much so that I'm sure I physically recoiled at the sight of him. And the confusion (a result of the build-up of toxins in his body from the undiagnosed kidney failure) is something I hope never, ever, ever to have to see in him again.

It broke my heart when I'd say goodbye and he'd ask if he was coming home too, or when he was sure he was in an office building from his long ago working career, or when he was too weak and confused to feed himself, or when he thought I was his mother. And especially when I looked into his eyes and knew he had no idea who I was.

We are the lucky ones, my family and I, because he has come back to us. I can't imagine what it's like for the families of people with dementia for whom this is a permanent state. My good God, I don't know how they do it. Just a few weeks of this has left me utterly exhausted, body and mind. How people do this for years is absolutely beyond me, but I have a tremendous new respect for those caring for loved ones who are disappearing right before their eyes.

My birthday is next week. Time has a way of changing what you wish for. Five years ago, having just lost Thomas,  I would have thought that my dearest wish upon turning 40 would be to have another child. Today, I just want my dad home. And I want him to stay there for as long as the gods can possibly spare him.

I've asked them for a lot of things over the past five years. I'm hoping they'll finally give me this one.