Monday, August 31, 2009

Home again, home again...

Have I ever mentioned how grateful I am, despite my love for the deep dark lakes of Ontario, to have married an Albertan?

I was remiss not to announce my departure again, although I hope contribute regularly enough for most of you to suspect that I had, once again, flown the coop. This time, we headed west to the homeland of my dear life partner. Once again surrounded by scads of family, we romped through the nearly-ripe wheat, bushwhacked our way along overgrown, dried up late August creek beds, and helped with chores around the family farm. Then Greg, myself, and our two little ones got into a great big truck, hauling a great big camper (this being a far cry from our low-impact, teeny-tiny tent in backpack days of 10 years ago) and had ourselves the roadtrip of our life. We wove through the rockies, stayed for a while on our farm south of Calgary, camping on the creekbed and falling asleep to the howls of the coyotes, and then dropped into the Badlands to crawl around on big rocks and bake in the sun and feel like we had moved to the moon. The children were amazingly delighted to be on such a big roadtrip at such a tender age, and we were so close to the stars, so close to the spirits in our joy that we seemed to be all together despite everything that has happened over the years.
Tomorrow, Greg returns to work, and we therefore return to the world that we live in. What a gift this summer was, to bask in the glowing-ness of my growing tummy, to feel the love of my children and husband around me, to remove myself entirely from everything that did not affect my day-to-day existence. It was a gift I will always treasure, and I will look for her after-effects in the year to come.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I was trudging up one of the incredibly steep hills in my neighborhood today, listening to Richard Shindell on my iPod, and thinking of Charlotte. Specifically, I was thinking of what I had written a few days ago-- about 7 years of loneliness-- and knowing in my heart that that number is terribly wrong, because for the first 9 months of that 7 years, I was nothing but joy. Joy, hope, peace, and absolute certainty that I was the luckiest woman in the world.

But for those of you who have been there, and even those of you who haven't might be able to imagine, that when one looks back on this pre-disaster state of bliss, it is with a sense of horror. I think of myself cavorting around, flaunting my ever-swelling midsection, naively buying diapers and signing up for childbirth classes and speaking in definite terms about my future with my baby, and I almost have to look away. There is a part of me that cherishes that innocence, which I will never have again. I am grateful that I had the opportunity-- if only once-- to feel like the glowing, proud pregnant mother that so many people take for granted. Now, feeling like a ticking time bomb, I look back on that with a greater sense of envy and disbelief than anything else. It's not that I think I was actually dumb, or truly naive, I was just doing what almost everyone I know has the luxury of doing-- I was loving my pregnancy, my baby, and I was absolutely optimistic. Why wouldn't I have been?

So those nine months were not lonely, not by a long stretch. They were probably the happiest nine months of my life, to date, and while my living children have brought me joy that certainly matches that which my unborn Charlotte brought me, it is almost unfathomable for me at this point to remember that the joy I felt with her, before her birth, was ONLY that, it was just joy. It was not joy with a huge potful of grief on the back burner. I was just happy. Only glad. Simply full of hope, with nothing else to speak of. What an amazing place to be.

And yet, at the same time, I sometimes pick apart the quality of that naive joy, and wonder if what I feel now with Liam and Aoife isn't somehow a bigger joy. There is something about having climbed such a huge mountain of loss, and to be walking with a practiced gait down the other side, that makes the sun feel especially warm on your back.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Seven Years

It was this week, seven years ago, that I became pregnant for the first time.

There is something about that number. Six, it's very close to five. Five isn't that big. But when you get to seven, you are creeping ever closer to ten, which is a decade, and that is a very, very long time indeed. I don't know if it ever dawned upon me, seven years ago, that I might even become pregnant, and I obviously didn't ponder that a pregnancy could end in disaster. In fact, the deciding point for trying that summer was that I really wanted to get pregnant the summer after that, but I knew that sometimes it would take up to a year to conceive and so I wanted to cover my bases. After all, I reasoned, would you ever be disappointed to have a child? Think, I should have worked that extra year, saved the extra cash? Not in our family.
So we threw caution to the wind, and sometime between the 6th and the 12th of August I became pregnant with what would become a little girl who would change so many people's lives for the better. And who would leave a lot of broken hearts in her wake.

Six years ago last week, I became pregnant with another little being, who now sits in the bathtub over my head laughing at whatever antics his father is performing. This, I can believe, because I can feel the six years of pure bliss this boy has brought me. Six years hardly seems enough for the joy to be contained within.

But seven years of loneliness? That is harder to grasp.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Nursery

The grass is mown, the berries picked. We have romped in the river, and held hands around the little table on our porch before supper. We have ridden bikes, hiked through the dense hemlock forest, and tried to weed the garden. I have cooked dinner on my own stove, shopped once again at my own store, and re-connected with friends. I am home, yes. I am home. Missing my other home, but I'm home.

The nursery is empty again. This is a chapter of my infertility journey that I touched upon several times, and the relief that I am flooded with as I lie in wait for its next occupant is indescribable.

Since Charlotte died, everything about our house has changed. Everything. (was this intentional?) The dining room is somewhere else, we have a newly-added living room, new bedrooms, renovated bathrooms, everything has been painted, the gardens have been moved, extended, replanted... everything EXCEPT the nursery, in which time has stood still for six and a half years. The little stars still shine on the pale blue ceiling, the buttery yellow walls warm the tiny room like a little sun-filled tent, the crib still stands in the spot where Greg proudly completed assembling it one February day while Charlotte practiced her calisthenics in my womb and I thought I was destined for the best life ever.

And then life unfolded, and I don't have to tell that story, and we can fast-forward through two more babies moving into that room at perhaps nine months of age and staying put until... until they were shuffled aside by the next occupant, was my plan. That's how it worked for Liam, anyway, and I assumed that it would work this way for Aoife, as well. I was, in fact, so bold in my assumption that I had been played my bad hand in baby-making that I re-decorated the guest room for her in the winter of 2008, so certain I was that I would soon be needing the nursery back for baby #4. Baby #4 who took a year and a half to come, and whom I became certain after a certain period of time would NEVER come, and so I wondered what would happen to the nursery when Aoife moved out, and there was nobody to move in.

Certainly I could not stand the empty nursery again. This time it would stand as a failure of another kind. But it would be missing two babies, in my mind, one who I missed and cried for but shouldn't need a nursery for anymore, and one who I wanted but couldn't create and stamped my foot on the ground and swore in frustration for. I would have to dismantle it, I supposed. I would have to take the crib apart, store it somewhere, figure out an alternative use for that little space, and try to keep hope that one day I would re-assemble the nursery for the miracle I could hardly bear to hope for. I gave myself the deadline of March 27, 2009, which was Aoife's third birthday. I couldn't realistically keep her in the crib for my own mental health purposes any longer than that, I reasoned. She had been staring longingly at her new "big girl bed" for over a year now, and at three I couldn't hold her off any more. It would happen then. I would grit my teeth, and I would do it.

And it was only 9 days before my deadline that my period failed to come, and because I was visiting a newborn baby in the hospital that morning, I figured I'd better extinguish the hope that was brewing somewhere in my deepest pit of myself, because I couldn't go and see the newborn and think that there might be a chance that I'd be there again, could I. So I peed on the little cheap pregnancy test that had come free with my ovulation kits, and I could see that control line come up fast and pink, and so I threw that little f***ing strip across the counter in frustration because HOW could I have been so stupid to have thought that a missed period would mean I was pregnant when I was so OBVIOUSLY infertile. I brushed my teeth and my hair, muttering under my breath and feeling foolish for having held onto five minutes of false hope, and I was just about to leave the bathroom when I saw the pee-soaked stick where it had landed on the back of the toilet seat, and I figured as a good housekeeper it belonged in the garbage. I lifted it up to throw it, with animated gusto, into the trash can, and that's when I saw the second pink line, which had showed up while I was spitting f-bombs into the sink along with my toothpaste. Miracles do happen, occasionally, after all.

So the move-the-nursery plan was abruptly cancelled, and my little Charlotte's bedroom gets to stand for years longer, my little corner of my heart can live there when it likes, and now I just have to let hope live there in that empty room while my living children fill up the other rooms until the month of November arrives.

And don't you wonder how I'm doing with all this? What it feels like to have two living children and a few years of unsuccessful attempts in the void between Charlotte and myself? Yeah, I wonder too how I'm doing, too, because I spend a lot of time making sure that I'm not thinking about how I'm doing. I am trying to be present with the kicks and bumps that delight me all day long, and I'm trying to choose my set of names so I can have somebody to think about hypothetically. But I can't do much more than that. I can't think to myself, at Christmas I will have a six week old baby. I think to myself, will there be a baby at Christmas? I have not had any specific freak-out moments where I've actually imagined something going wrong, but I still think in the hypothetical to a really severe degree, to the point of some real dissociation. This is a very obvious reaction to a pregnancy after a loss, but I have to be honest-- there was a part of me that thought that by the third time, I might have gained a little more trust in myself and in my baby. This is what it is, and things shall be what they shall. And I will sit back, feel the baby battering at my organs, enjoy the rise of bile in my esophagus, and hope that the stars line up in my favor this time around.

A year from now, perhaps that nursery will be in use. At least for now, I don't have to take it down.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Our car slipped down the crunching gravel an hour before dawn, leaving the fresh lake air and the clouds of mosquitoes and a million memories too comfortable to remember behind.
We crossed over onto the pavement and the magic was gone, the safe haven left once again for the thirty-fourth summer of my life as I headed for "home".

And I wondered, as I thought it, what home is. Is it the place I am leaving, where four generations before me have dipped their toes in the lake, where spirits freely roam? Is it where my children play every single day with their cousins and get hugged by aunties and nanas and big cousins? Is it this house where I grew up for every summer I have ever known, where my children sleep in the same beds, on the same sheets that my sisters and I shared thirty years ago, where I serve them cereal in the same bowls I ate out of when I was three? Is it this place of timelessness, where I have no phone card for long distance, and no internet access, and where I never drive anyplace, and where I never run out of things to do?

Or is it where I am going, the pink house on the ledge with the rushing river below and the tall pines behind? Is it where I have carefully crafted each room, each space to my own liking, with things that sing to me, collected over years for specific reasons but at isolated times? Is it this house which stands on its own, where I have to drive in a car to see people, where my computer blinks on my desk and my telephone rings and mail piles up in the box?
I don't know the answer. The first sometimes feels more like home, but one can't stay there forever. I want to, I do, but the summer does end and the cousins all go home and then it is just a place. A place that settles me like a baby at the breast, but a place all the same. And my home has a bustling energy that I might miss, I might long for the hustle and bustle at times. Winter on the lake would be long, and cold, and lonely. Here it is cozy and warm, and the friends, though they travel by car, abound. They are not tied to me by blood, but by choice, and there is something to be said for that, as well.

We arrived home at two in the afternoon, and the sun beat down on the unfamiliar pavement of our driveway as we unloaded the vanload of things. I have spent my whole life trying to defend my homeland to clueless Americans who ask every year, "But isn't it cold up there?" but this year the myth proved true, we had a chilly month of July on the lake which appealed to me a great deal. As I unpacked my swelling body was repelled by the new sensation of sweaty heat and hot pavement. But as things slowly were dragged out of the car and across the lawn we managed to also pick six pints of blueberries out of our prolific fruit garden and to discover all the toys we'd left behind when we drove out, also before dawn, five weeks ago.

And now I sit, back to the plugged-in world, knowing in my heart that both places are home, and that one has much to teach me about the other. About the value of family, about keeping connections, and about how it might be a nice, relaxing idea to just say NO sometimes. To not turn on my computer 3 days a week. To not answer the phone if I am otherwise engaged. To be more present, more there. To celebrate.

So, there it is, a stream of consciousness that I dare not re-read-- having woken up this morning at 3:20 with a baby kicking my bladder and returning to bed unable to sleep, I am sure that this post will leave many grappling for what the point might have been, but it is a sleepy start back into life back at the little pink house, and there are parts of me that are glad to be back.
(and big huge parts of me that are sad).

And tomorrow is my birthday!