Saturday, September 26, 2009


"It's safe to say that the No.1 worry for most preg.nant women is pain during labor".

This, scribed by the pen of the editor of my magazine of choice both to love and deeply despise, magazing. (sept/oct 2009, p. 10)

And my response to this?


I only wish.

Imagine if all we had to "worry" about was the pain of the actual birth? How absolutely, completely SIMPLE! To imagine something so mundane causing actual fear for someone causes me to imagine that such a person doesn't actually know what there really is to worry about. (which fills me with envy, bien sur)

But I do.

So, Peggy, you want another article from me? Cause I'll write one about what the number one worry of some of us underrepresented mamas really is.

(not that a single one of your readers would care to read it).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I received a message from a mother today who is in her third month since her baby died. Just entering it, just having passed the anniversary of her baby's death. I swirled back on the calendar to July, 2003, which was the worst month of my life, really, truly.
It actually seems logical to me that July would have been the worst. May I got to have her. She was born, I held her. I still had quarts of milk for her, my belly sagged, the lilacs blossomed and fell and she was still around in so many ways. In June, we had her memorial, the cards kept flowing in, and in, and in. People brought meals. We were still in a state.
Then July hit. Two months had passed. The ceremonies had finished. The milk was gone. My belly was flat. The cards dwindled, and ceased.
My baby was still gone.
One day stands out in my mind, a blur among many simliar days I am sure. I could barely keep my head on my shoulders. I did not know left from right. Greg was outside in his shop, working on the table he was building for some friends as a wedding gift, and I was in the house alone.
I crept upstairs to our teeny, tiny nursery, and I laid myself down on the beige, woolen rug, and my body ached with the missingness of my baby. I laid there, like a comma on the rug, alone, my tears soaking the carpet, and loud animal wails filling the house. I wonder now how many times my neighbors must have heard me crying, and I would have plugged my ears in agony to have heard that sound, even if I didn't have the context. What is more horrifying than the grieving cry of a mother, alone, without her baby? All of you who have been there know this sound, it is crying like you never knew you could do as an adult, it is the child of two who has missed his nap and his mommy has left and he's fallen and scraped both his knees, it is a cry like that, but you are older, and the pain is even deeper, and it ricochets around the room and haunts you to imagine you are making that sound yourself.
It seems like I was there for hours, and perhaps I was. I know the rug was wet. Soaked with tears. Finally Greg came upstairs, and the sound of him padding up our tiny, narrow staircase made me feel warm all over. I was so lonely. He wrapped his arms around me and laid his head on my middle, and the relief flooded through me.
"Do you want me to stay?" he asked. My body shook, I was crying still. I took a deep breath. I did want him, I did. But I also knew better.
"No," I said. "You go and be where you need to be."
"Thank you," he said. He held me, tightly, for a few more minutes. Then his footsteps padded down those stairs, and I heard the screen door slam as he headed back out to his workshop.
Fat tears rolled down my cheeks, I was alone again.
But I knew that lying on the rug crying was not how my husband grieved for his daughter, at least not for hours at a time in broad daylight. His time in the nursery was after dark, it was brief, and it was his. During the day he created beautiful things while he thought of her, his own tears staining the spalted maple and cherry and other amazing woods he chose for his pieces. I had to let him be what he was, just as I was being who I was.
This was a day in July.
And my heart aches to hear of someone who is there, stuck in the month that is no-mans land, far away from where one wants to be, and too far to see where one might go.

Monday, September 21, 2009

So I signed up for this group class for prenatal care for this one reason alone: I wanted to experience, to pretend, to be a regular pregnant lady. Just two nights a month, really. I vowed that I would just drink lots of juice before I went so I could feel the baby squirm right up to the moment of Doppler and would then laugh and yuck it up with the rest of them.
So far, I have had two meetings. On the first, I did okay. I liked the people, and I left feeling proud because I was doing the pregnant lady thing, and doing it right. Check.
The second meeting was not so good. I had mentioned to the midwife that my greatest concern as of late had been that the baby moves TOO much. (It has to be something). So she wrote on a whiteboard, "What is normal baby movement?" Already I was kicking myself for having gone public with my concern, because I really did not want to have a conversation about this particular topic. But the midwife outlined what "normal behaviour" is, and how it ranges from child to child.
In response to this, somebody asked about kick counts. Now, when I was pregnant with Liam, I did kick counts, but by the time I had done it for a month or two I realized it was unnecessary as I was already obsessing about every single kick I felt. But with Charlotte? Who knows. Regular kick counts might have noticed a decrease in her movement, and could have sent up a red flag. So I am, in theory, a big fan. The midwife ultimately framed it as something you could do, but didn't have to do. I began to feel a little panicked, so I mentioned that it's not hard to just pick a time of day when your baby is always active and just be mindful of the movement, and to see how long it takes to get to 10 movements. While you're eating your cereal, or reading in your bed at night. It gives you a baseline. The point was taken. Heads nodded.
But then! The midwife goes on, and this is a midwife whom I adore and respect, to say the obvious: If your baby is surprisingly quiet, definitely call right away. We'll ask you to eat or drink something and lie down on your left side, and then if you still don't get much we'll have you come in.

Can you guess where my mind is going? Eat? Drink? You are wasting valuable time while a baby might be DYING in there. Take some time to lie down? Bullshit! Get in the car and DRIVE, BABY! Do not pass go! Your baby could, at this very moment in fact, be suffocating or ailing in some other way and you would never know it!

I wanted to leap out of my chair and say, You know what? You know what all of you innocent first time mommies who are choosing layettes and matching your pastels and thinking about 529 funds for your children who will doubtlessly live to go to college? That exact scenario happened to me. I was young, I was healthy, everything was perfect, and after I drank my juice and nothing happened and I came in, guess what? The baby was DEAD. And only hours before I had been JUST LIKE YOU. So hang onto your hats, girls and guys, this could happen to YOU!

Aah. The sweet, gentle nature of the caged bereaved mother, my story locked tightly inside me as if inside a little metal vault while I flaunt my thirty-something week belly for the crowd. I said not a word, but sat there, squirming, for a time while the conversation ultimately turned to another subject.

I am most definitely not a normal pregnant mother. Nice try, though, eh?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

When the door opens...

So I'm pregnant, you see. I'm trying to come to terms with this, and I'm reminded more and more often because I can't touch the floor anymore without extreme discomfort, and I'm hobbling and wobbling, and because this person who lives inside of me is so absolutely here and part of my life that it's becoming an indisputable truth.
It has been amazing to me to realize the amount of control that I have acquired over the past four years, since my last pregnancy. I have doors in my brain that I can open and shut at will, and it has been of a great relief that I can keep the "panic" door shut most of the time if I work on it. There have been several occasions where I have slipped into this mode in full force, and this is when I am reminded that it's all still in there, even though it's behind a closed door.
For example, last week. I had this ingrown hair on the bottom of my belly, which hurt like the dickens but of course I can neither see nor reach it, so it had to just be what it was. I put some hot compresses on it, and some polysporin cream, and it seemed to abate a little bit. But then! Suddenly, on my ring finger, something else. A raised bump. It looked like a very swollen pimple, but when I burst it, it appeared to be more of an infected finger than your average zit. That was when it hit me-- CELLULITIS! Or was it folliculitis? Either way, this was for sure: left untreated, I would be getting blood poisoning, perhaps within the hour, and doesn't it just kind of stand to reason that if you had blood poisoning it would adversely affect your growing baby? Like even cause it to d**? So that was it-- my fate was sealed. When I realized this it was, of course, after hours so I had to make it through a whole night of this certainty before I was able to procure an emergency visit with my GP to check out the blemishes.
I was so relieved to be there in the waiting room, until I realized that (GASP!) unlike at my midwife's office, there might be sick people here! Even people with swine flu, perhaps, it could be possible, and then I could also become sick and d** along with my baby. I was beginning to regret this visit when I actually looked down at the swollen pustule on my finger and realized that the polysporin I'd applied the night before had kind of worked, and it wasn't really looking that swollen anymore. Upon closer examination in the bathroom where I washed my hands twice with very hot water, neither was the ingrown hair. So here I was, risking acquiring swine flu or some other awful contagious disease that might harm my baby, but it was still possible that I might be getting blood poisoning while I was sitting here, so WHAT is a mother to do?
When I was seen, the doctor didn't exactly laugh at me, although she did humor me by taking a swab of my ingrown hair to check it for bizarre viruses. She also prescribed a very expensive topical ointment which I promptly filled "just to be extra cautious", although I could tell that she didn't really see the need to be extra cautious. But I did.

So there are these moments, where the door to the panic room opens and this is my life, but sometimes I keep it closed, and those days are quite peaceful.

Thank goodness. Because I remember that that day, used to be every day. And for some people it still is.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Reappearance

Those of you who have been with me from the start may remember this story, which was written in the third person but is quite obviously autobiographical. This little baby, who at that particular event was just the straw that broke the camel's back for an overwhelmed, bereaved mother, nevertheless was cause for much thought and amazement. This little girl had been adopted by two loving mothers, and then reclaimed in a bitter custody struggle for several months. Around the time that I lost my Charlotte, they lost their dear little girl, but the story ends differently, of course. Not only was their little girl merely lost to them, and was still alive out there, but she was ultimately returned to their custody permanently. This was what was so hard for me in seeing her. Not only had they gotten their lost baby back, which seemed so unfair, but also there was out there somewhere a mother who had given up custody (the mother herself had never been involved in the custody battle, as I recall) and had willingly said goodbye to her little girl. And there I was, I had had my daughter snatched from my grasp while I slept and there was nothing I could do to change the situation. There was no choice, no fight, just submission to what had already happened.
Gina, of course, was who knew this little girl, and when Liam started kindergarten, of course I sent her all the photos of his magnificent and remarkable first day. Liam's class contains both kindergarten and first graders in it, and somehow this has taken the pressure off of me ogling the first grade girls and knowing I ought to have one. Instead, I see a room full of girls and boys and some of them are five and some six and some almost seven and I don't really know who is who. Somehow this seems easier than gazing at "her" class in and of itself, although I do feel dreamy about the idea that my two children could have shared a class and peer group. So I hadn't invested much time in the thought that some of these girls were Charlotte's peers, born perhaps in the same month as her, and maybe even I had known their mothers when I was pregnant. Who knew. Gina looked at the picture. She looked at Liam, sitting on the meeting rug, and at the little girl sitting next to him.
You know who it was? The baby who got returned. The little girl who was won back. I, of course, had no ability to make the connection, but Gina did. There she was, the miracle baby who has lived in delighted innocent bliss with her family for the six years that we have trudged along without our daughter. She was itting right there next to my son, the boy who brought us the bliss, side by side, like any two classmates.
Did I feel envy, when I met her mother? Did I cry to myself?
No, I did not. It is different now. The rage doesn't accompany the pain anymore. The sadness just percolates in a gentle, calm way that I am so used to that I walk along with it almost all the time without even noticing it. It is sad, very sad, because my daughter isn't there. But it is wonderful that this little girl still has her family, and they have her.
And that is what six years can do.

Friday, September 11, 2009


My littlest, but somehow biggest bird has flown the coop, and I have graduated from the mama of a baby, a toddler, a preschooler to the mother of a full-grown boy who leaves me for hours on end and comes home singing brightly, spouting facts and delighted with himself through and through. I did it, I really did it. After a year of thinking I couldn't do it, I couldn't do it, I found the school that seemed like a just-right fit and I did it, and he is glad for it. I am torn, though, every day, because it seems so wrong to have given him over to somebody else for that huge, substantial part of the day. It is the juicy time where so much that is delicious happens, and I am missing this. What I wish is for a middle ground of sorts. Couldn't we have a really great school that runs from 10-2 each day? I would absolutely dig that.
However, for now, I am surviving, and my baby is thriving. It makes me so pleased and so delightfully proud to see him flourish, to see him skipping into his classroom and feeling safe and loved. Thankfully his school welcomes parent presence at any time so I get to be privy to much of what he does.
But I miss him, too. I miss him a lot, and when he comes home it's all I can do to keep myself from taking him up to bed with me, stripping down and just spooning his warm flesh against my body in an effort to re-absorb him into my being, to make us one for a little while longer. He was, after all, just born. Just born.
It is a big change in our life, this fall, for our family. Liam is off to kindergarten, Aoife will begin two mornings a week at our little, traditional nursery program where Liam went last year. She is itching to begin, and I will have 8? 10? more? weeks with a few hours a week on my OWN before newbaby arrives to steal the show.
I am floating here among the chaos of so much newness at once, of driving hither and whither when all summer long it has seemed that I have been so still, and so thoughtful, and so quiet. But I LIKE it, that is what is thrilling me right now, I feel delighted with how busy things are and how happy and whizzy and joy-full everyone seems to be. So we'll ride this wave, and trust that things will settle in time.
And I try, try, try, to maintain a positive outlook for the babe within, now 30 weeks cooked and with a vivacious, amazing personality. It seems cruel not to be optimistic, because this baby deserves all the hope in the world. I feel like I am less dissociated than I have been in the past months, perhaps because this little guy/gal has such a big presence right now. There is much joy to be had, I tell myself, and though I find it hard to envision I try to grasp tightly to the knowledge that it is true, it could be true, it is true.