Thursday, October 28, 2010


First thing this morning on Facebook, I found this.

I've been wanting to write about this very thing for a while; about how hard Facebook has the potential to be if you are on the outside looking in. The ultrasounds and baby photos subbing as profile pictures, the "offers" to sell naughty children, cute birthday/Halloween/Christmas/Thanksgiving stories, announcements about potty training successes, first teeth, and new pregnancies...

Facebook is rife with childcentric information.

And there's absolutely no reason why it shouldn't be. None whatsoever.

But because it is, it can be a dangerous place for someone trying to navigate the bloody waters of infertility and loss. And it can be torture for someone for whom all those lovely baby things will never be a reality.

The interesting thing is that we generally stay very quiet about all this. So much so that it likely never occurs to anyone but us that it might be painful. The landmines are invisible unless you see them as such. We are blown to smithereens every day by things others look at with wonder and joy.

That's just the way it is.

It's the way it has to be, in fact, because the world can't (and shouldn't) stop merely because we are sad. There is no reason our sorrow should trump another's joy.

But that's precisely why I was so shocked to see the link above; stunned that someone would actually dare to put it all out there - to demonstrate in a tangible way what it can sometimes feel like to be a childless person floating alone in a seemingly endless sea of fertility.

We, as a group, generally concentrate our efforts on making sure other people don't feel uncomfortable. The last thing we tend to do is point out our own discomfort. We might be broken, humiliated, and desperate - but we are usually silent.

And I'm not sure what I think about this phenomenon anymore, this strange code of silence.

I don't want to be the person who rains on everyone's parade, reminding people with my sad looks and pitiful sighs that I envy what they have. I don't want to be the needy girl from whom people flee in horror. And I certainly don't want to end up being a one-trick pony who can't talk about anything but the life she wishes she'd been able to have.

But sometimes I do crave a certain level of acknowledgment - a little something that lets me know you would smother my pain with a pillow if you had one big enough, or strangle cruel fate with your bare hands for denying me my joy. I am desperately struggling to co-exist in this fertile world, and that pain I feel is real. This life is hard - harder than I ever dreamed - and I'm not always okay. I probably look it most of the time - maybe all the time - but I am stuck together with tape, staples and prayers. And chocolate and wine.

I'm not looking for pity. I can't stress that enough. I think what we all want so much is simply for people to remember that we're here too.

So you think you can dance

So tonight at dance class, My Beloved and I had to hijack the instructor (we'll call him Cliff because I can't remember his real name) to settle a disagreement about which leg we should each be using when starting the waltz. I always presume I'm right - which is, unfortunately, not always the case. Not that it stops me from steadfastly believing I'm right the next time a directional or foot placement issue comes up, of course.

I also, not surprisingly, have trouble letting My Beloved lead.

Anyway, after having the mystery of the starting-leg sorted out for us (yeah, I was wrong), Cliff then proceeded tell me that I'm one of the best dancers in the class.

I started laughing.

Incredibly, he waved off my laughter and insisted that I'm truly one of the best - something about the graceful way I move my body or something. I dunno - I stopped listening when I realized he wasn't taking the piss. Shocked into a stupor.

Something nice about my body? Wha...? Huh??

Me, people. There are impossibly tiny little women (in impossibly high heels and flirty little skirts) in our dance class. I'm 40, with easily that many pounds to lose, and always sweating withing minutes of the music starting.

I'm a sweaty hippo in a tutu, really.

And yet somehow, inexplicably, one of the best in the class.

Now I know it's not saying all that much - some people in that stuffy elementary school gym can barely walk, let alone dance - but I've never been good at anything requiring physical endurance and/or coordination. And my body has failed me (us, really) so many times since we lost our first baby seven years ago that I'm totally unaccustomed - and thoroughly unprepared - to hear it being praised by anyone. For anything.

But whaddaya know. It can dance.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Picture this

On Saturday night, for no other reason that it suddenly occurred to me that I wanted to, I posted an album of Thomas-related photos on Facebook.

I think the idea sparked to life after I saw a picture Loribeth posted there of the beautiful plaque on her sweet baby girl's niche. It was such an intimate and lovely thing to see, and it allowed me to know her just a little bit more than I had before, which is something so precious when you're talking about a baby that has died. There isn't much to know - that's the unfortunate truth. Every little thing is to be cherished.

So I set about digging through my photos with a strange sort of urgency and excitement. Having suddenly discovered that it was the right time to share all those sweet memories of my pregnancy and Thomas' short life, I couldn't wait to post the pictures.

I was, if you squinted and looked at just the right angle, going to be almost normal - just like any mom who posts pictures of her pregnancy, nursery, and the baby that followed on Facebook.

You know, normal but for the part in the photo essay where you see a grave marker - and stop seeing pictures of the baby.

Details, details, details.

It took an hour or so to choose, download and caption the photos.

Dozens of kind, loving thoughts now litter the comment section below the album - words I will carry in my heart forever because they are so heartfelt and so loving. That wasn't a surprise (I'm friends with some really, really great people) - it was my reaction that caught me off guard.

I was touched. Happy. Grateful.

And then, somehow, confused. Because in the midst of reveling in the joy of hearing people say what a lovely boy he was, and how much they appreciated the album, and how hard it must have been for me to post it, I started feeling a slow, creeping kind of sadness.

My boy - my story - disturbs people. It makes them uncomfortable and sorry and sad.

Which, I mean - duh. Of course it does. Of course.

But somehow in the midst of my photo posting frenzy, I kind of forgot that bit. I was thisclose to being normal - posting pictures of me pregnant and smiling, of My Beloved painting the nursery, of me cutting the cake at my shower - and my excitement at doing a regular old thing like sharing baby photos with friends made me forget that we aren't really regular people anymore.

My balloon didn't burst, exactly. But the slow leak did it in just the same.

I feel a bit foolish for having tricked myself the way I did. I look back and see a crazed woman madly scouring her photo archives with reckless abandon and unbridled glee, totally oblivious to the crash that was of course going to come - and I'm amazed at her naivete.

After more than five and a half years you'd think I'd know better. I mean, really.

But still, the brief feeling of normalcy was quite nice. And, in the end, totally worth it.

And besides, I'm glad that my friends might now feel that they know Thomas a tiny bit better than they did before - just like I feel a lovely sort of peace and closeness for knowing Loribeth's Katie just that much more now too.

Friday, October 15, 2010

This little light of mine...

...I'm going to let it shine in memory of Thomas, his four wee sibilings, 
and all their friends now playing together in God's garden.

 With love forever, and ever, and ever.
 Until we meet again. ox

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


On Friday as I was leaving the dialysis waiting area after my dad was summoned in for his "oil change" (as he used to call it when his mind was still a little fuzzy), I stopped briefly to talk to one of the hospital volunteers.

She's an older lady herself - probably in her mid 60s - and I have long suspected that she has a tiny bit of a crush on my dad. She lights up when she sees him, teases him like a schoolgirl, and has also been known to pet him. Like, literally - she strokes his arm like she's petting a cat. Friday she went to far as to pat his face, cupping his chin in her hand for a brief moment.

Were it not for the fact that she's a very kind woman - and really no competition for my mom since my dad has only ever had eyes for her - I would probably have already issued a passive aggressive smackdown. But she's entirely too sweet for that sort of thing. And, really, why should I mind that someone shows my dad a little extra kindness?

There's often not enough to go around in this world. That he gets extra doses when she's on call is fine by me.

So on my way out on Friday, she asked me if I thought it upset him that she pokes fun at him. I smiled and told her no, that he eats that sort of thing up (he is a man, after all).

She then went on to say how sweet he is, and that he seems like a good, kind person who has lived a good, happy life. She sees a lot of old, broken people filing past her as she greets them and checks their names off the list. My dad is no exception, held together by spit and tape the way he is. But she has somehow managed to see beyond the old, sick man he's become so dreadfully quickly. I don't know what her gift is, but with just the briefest of contact each week, she was able to see right into his soul. And was kind enough to tell me what she saw.

It's what I see too, of course, but it made me feel so good to know that what I know isn't a secret - that it's still obvious, even in the hardest and saddest of circumstances. As beaten down and as sad as I know he sometimes feels, he still radiates an inner light that is visible for miles.

As I drove back to have lunch with my mom, I thought about how incredible it is to have someone see you that way; to have someone feel the goodness and kindness radiating from you like the heat from a bonfire on a chilly autumn night.

So along with learning the ukulele (which I'm still determined to do, despite evidence to the contrary in the form of a thick layer of dust on the poor little thing), my new life goal is to try to be the kind of person my dad is so that one day someone who doesn't know me - or anything about me - might feel that kind of warmth too.

Maybe this isn't something you can aspire to. Maybe it's just something you have to have without trying - or even knowing. But I will never forget that conversation with the hospital volunteer, or the light my dad manages to bring to her face with the power of his own.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thanksgiving Day, 2010

This, this is what I'm thankful for this year.
I love you, dad.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Time has given me the ability to understand that what I see - and the way I see it - is coloured by the lens of loss.

This notion is true for everyone, of course. We all see the world based on things that have happened to us: people we've met, jobs we've had, loves we've lost, struggles we've faced, triumphs we've celebrated - our life experiences make us see things in a way unique only to us.

So I'm biased, is what I'm saying.

I see a mother wishing away her weekend because she's tired of being with her kids and I want to scream. I hear conversations about how parenting is mostly joyless drudgery (at lot - it seems like a trendy opinion these days) and I reel with the force of a hand slap to the face.

I stand mute while these conversations swirl around me because I know that my opinion won't count. I am the one who sees motherhood through rose coloured glasses. They know that, and I know that. I can still conjure that dreamy, once-upon-a-time vision of a warm, sleepy baby tucked into my arms while I rock him gently back to sleep in the middle of the night, singing softly and marveling at his beauty while my heart bursts with love and pride.

Seriously, I can still see it, plain as day. 

In that vision I am beautiful, love radiating from my glowing face in the dim light of the man-in-the-moon lamp, tendrils of hair cascading just so, my robe crisply white, my slippers fluffy and new. I am not haggard, half-asleep, dirty, disheveled, or vomited-upon. I'm not even in a bad mood. I'm happy to be up in the middle of the night. Happy.

Is that how it would have been? I'm guessing probably no. Not every time. Maybe not even once (except for the glowing with love bit - I'm sure that would always have been true).

But in the absence of any personal evidence to prove this vision fraudulent, that's the movie that plays in my head. And so to hear parenting so cruelly maligned is always a bit of a shock. Almost a personal affront to the life I wanted so very, very badly - and to that lovely vision I hold so dear. It flat out makes me angry to hear those who have it treat it like a head cold they wish they could medicate away.

But I understand it's not fair of me to judge. I really do, despite evidence to the contrary. And I understand that I can't help but see the experience of parenting in a way those with living children never will. It's just that all that annoying understanding creates such a war between my head and my heart.

The worst of it is that I can't say anything. Obviously I can't contribute to conversations about the difficulty of day-to-day parenting (although it's not like I don't have a clue how hard parenting can be; I had to take my child off life support. I get that it's hard). And if I chose to point out that parents should shut up and be grateful for the gifts they were lucky enough to be given every time someone within earshot complained about their kid, I'm sure I'd find my Christmas card list diminish rather quickly.

Parents who have living children see their lives through that lens. They aren't supposed to put on my glasses and see it my way. They can't. They have their perspective, I have mine.

So I stay quiet. Mostly. You know, except for blogging.

And I try - I really, really do try - to keep it all in perspective, knowing that my vision of motherhood is still, and always will be, just a lovely dream playing quietly in my head.

It's my world too

Today I got trapped behind a woman with twins at the grocery store who seemed hellbent on telling me all about the apparent lack of two-seater shopping carts at stores in our town. She blocked my cart, then took her sweet time strapping her twins into hers as she blabbed on and on about the galling absence of the elusive two-seater. Her eyes waggled out of their sockets with outrage and disbelief at the magnitude of this horrible injustice. Like the universe somehow always owed her a convenient spot to stick her kids simply because she managed to have two of them at the same time (who, by the way, were totally old enough to walk nicely beside the cart, if you ask me).

My mistake was agreeing that the seat part on the new FreshCo carts is hard to open. But the thing is, that's where I put my purse, not my kids.

I started to explain that I use the area where you'd normally put a child as my handy purse-holder - that would have been my contribution to the conversation - but agreement was all she needed to assume that we had common ground. And she was off.

After the initial vent subsided, I learned how difficult twin wrangling is, and got a verbal map of all the stores in our area with two-seater carts. Which is all such useful information for me, isn't it?

I'm used to this sort of thing. It usually ends up being more amusing to me than anything else now - in that Murphy's Law/ Born Loser sort of way. Unless the person is particularly annoying, in which case I'd probably be irritated even if I had living children.

But there is still a little part of me that squirms under the weight of my history when this sort of thing happens.

Because, of course, in situations like this I'm a fraud. I nod in agreement, as though I know anything about things like putting kids in shopping carts or twin wrangling - or need directions to the stores with the best kind carts for multiple kids. But I nod just the same, and smile sympathetically.

Or, even worse, knowingly.

No one can tell I'm lying. No one can possibly imagine the internal dialogue I'm having at the same time - prepping my answers, absorbing landmines, concentrating on arranging my face into something that I think probably looks normal, relaxed, and appropriate. Acting, acting, acting. 

And then I walk away feeling like I've just been sliced out of a picture. Neatly and with surgical precision, I lift right out of the "normal" world around me as soon as someone reminds me that I don't actually belong there - that I will always be different because I have this whole other life that people who worry about the lack of two-seater shopping carts can't begin to fathom even exists.

Of course I have the right to explain that my world looks different; that my purse is in the spot where children are intended to be because all my children happen to be dead. But most of the time this is simply impractical. It's easier to nod and agree than it is to tell my story in the fleeting snippet of time you generally give to strangers at the grocery store. My story isn't quick or easy. And, let's be honest, most people simply don't want to hear that kind of story anyway.

So I just carry on living my double life, being normal until I'm reminded I'm not. And being me until I'm required to play some other, more palatable and socially acceptable role. 

Lucky for me I'm not half bad at faking it.