Monday, January 30, 2012

Fighting the Fear

I'm writing this in response to My New Normal's link-up that asked how you handle the fear in a pregnancy after a loss.

Unfortunately, I don't have any brilliant advice.  The way I wrap my head around the devastating risks and the potential rewards on any given day changes from bursts of optimism ("This baby is going to be fine!"), to a stoic acceptance ("There's nothing I can do at this point"), to the same kind of hoping/wishing/praying/bargaining I did with Eliza ("Please, please, please let this baby be okay."  You know, because that was SO effective the first time around...).  So even though I'm not very good at convincing myself at any given time that everything is going to be okay, there are some specific things I do to try to keep myself from going totally batshit crazy.

1) I see two doctors.

I'm seeing my regular OB and a high risk maternal-fetal medicine specialist.  This means I have had an appointment every two weeks since I got a positive test.  I hear the heartbeat often, and I've seen the baby on ultrasound several times already.  It also means that I get continuing reassurance from two different people, who are both highly educated and very experienced.  At the very least, I can tell myself that I'm in good hands in terms of my healthcare.

2) I see a therapist.

It's the same therapist I started seeing right after Eliza died when I was sure I couldn't survive the death of my baby AND maintain my sanity (we're still working on that).  She's great.  She is easy to talk to, she validates the way I'm feeling, she disagrees with me if she thinks I'm wrong about something, she challenges me to articulate why I'm having a certain response to a person or situation, and she acknowledges that we've suffered a loss and a trauma and that it's really, really hard.  For a while, going to grief therapy was seriously like the bright spot of my week (oh, that was a sad time).  I always leave there feeling better, and often with a concrete plan of what I can do to make myself feel marginally better and somewhat in control of things.

3)  I don't have a Doppler.

I know that in the world of people who have lost babies, this is crazy talk.  I can't tell you how many times I've read on someone's blog that a Doppler saved her sanity or got her through her pregnancy.  It's not that I don't want to listen to the heartbeat or know what the baby is up to (seriously, if there was an ultrasound app for my iphone, the Deuce would have absolutely no privacy in my uterus).  I actually say to David a couple times a week, "I wish I had a Doppler."  But I still haven't bought or borrowed one.  I guess it's because I am clinging to some version of "normal" this time around.  I think Dopplers can offer peace of mind, but I don't think that they save babies.  So I have decided not to get one.  Yes, it means I sometimes worry when I could just listen to the heartbeat, but it also means that I have to trust that things are still ok, even though I have no way to know for sure.  And for me that's a big deal.  It's one way that I try to feel like I am getting through the fear and acknowledging that so much of this is out of my control, but that it can still be okay.  If that makes sense.

(And it might not make sense to you at all, which is fine.  I'm certainly not saying that Dopplers are bad--I totally get why people have and use them--or use TWO of them, haha!  It's just a decision that David and I made that feels right for us.  At least most of the time...)

4) I go to yoga classes.

I know, so boring, yoga, blah blah, breathing, blah.  But I leave my hour-and-a-half yoga class on Thursday nights, and I breathe easier than any other moment in my week.  It's a time when I think about Eliza, when I think about the Deuce, when I think about my ongoing connection to both of them, and on a good night I'm able to do this with a sense of peace.

When I was pregnant with Eliza, I looked forward to prenatal yoga every Monday night.  This time around, it kind of broke my heart that I wouldn't be attending a prenatal yoga class.  But there was NO way I could show up at the YMCA and join those first-time moms who were so blissfully happy and inquisitive about MY pregnancy and how I was feeling...  The mere thought makes me want to vomit.  So I figured I'd just do my regular yoga until it got too awkward to do it anymore and then I'd quit.

Well, I was only 10 and a half weeks along when certain yoga moves (cobra) weren't working out for me.  Not because my belly was bulging out (I still wasn't showing), but because my boobs were so freaking sore (and gianormous) that I couldn't lie comfortably on my chest.  So I modified cobra, hanging out in child's pose, and my instructor came over to ask me if I had a spinal injury.  At 10 and a half weeks, the only people who knew I was pregnant were David, my parents, and my therapist.  So I kind of panicked and even though we were whispering, I wasn't about to announce that I was pregnant in front of the yoga class.  So I just whispered, "I am just feeling kind of, um, tender here" (gesturing frantically at my boob region).  My instructor nodded and said, "OK, well just keep modifying then."  And I thought that was the end of it.

But no.  After class that day, she stopped me on my way out, all sweet and concerned like the earth-mother hippie that she is, and she asked me if I'd had surgery (as she gestured at her own boob region).  I immediately understood what she was getting at because I was totally at the porn-star phase of pregnancy where my boobs are HUGE and the belly just looks a little thick in the waist.  So I starting laughing and said, "Uh, no.  It looks like I've been augmented, but actually I'm just ten weeks pregnant."

Fortunately she was totally cool about it.  She congratulated me, asked no prying questions, and then said she was glad I told her because she'll help me modify my workout.  I asked if it was fine if I kept coming for the duration of my pregnancy and she said absolutely.  So...  prenatal yoga without any other pregnant ladies?  But with incense and hippie chanting and affirmations?  Yes, please!  It's like a dream come true.

5) I'm picky about what I eat and the bath/body products I use.

I was already sort of zealous about this with Eliza, but I definitely use it as a way to feel a little bit in control of things with the Deuce.  I'm not at all convinced that organic produce is always necessary, that a glass of wine would actually hurt the baby, that paraben-free cosmetics make any difference at all.  But if it makes me feel the tiniest smidgen better about things?  I'm all for it.  So I splurge on the organic produce, I smell David's beer instead of tasting it (even when it looks delicious), I put mozzarella instead of blue cheese on my salad, and I only buy lotion that rates 4 or lower in the Skin Deep database.  I know people have healthy babies all the time who pay no attention to any of that stuff (hell, I'm friends with some of them).  But I also know that this is a way for me to take charge of a situation that is mostly out of my hands.  So I do what I can.  Organic produce never hurt anybody, right?

6) I'm quiet about this pregnancy.

I do not volunteer the information that I am pregnant to acquaintances or strangers or sales people or students.  I'm still wearing loose fitting shirts and scarves to hide the bump when I'm teaching.  If friends ask how I'm feeling, sometimes I just say, "I miss Eliza."  Because sometimes THAT feeling is stronger than any other.  I don't mind discussing this pregnancy with people who have fully acknowledged and shared the grief of our loss, but I don't have a lot of patience with people who want to be happy for us but are unwilling to be sad with us.  If I talk about the future, I preface statements about this summer or next fall with, "If this baby lives..." or I follow up comments about a future baby with "hopefully."  It's important to me to be honest and cautious as I proceed with this pregnancy.

7) I distract myself.

I read four novels while we were in Mexico.  I now have three magazine subscriptions.  I troll home decorating blogs like I'm a scout for HGTV.  I scour Pinterest for little projects (you can follow me at  I plan our evenings at home by the week so we have little things to look forward to (Monday:  Blackthorn Pizza and Breaking Bad; Tuesday:  massage and Mexican food; Wednesday:  go to the movies; Thursday: coffee with a friend, etc.).

After we got home from Mexico, I still had weeks before my semester started.  In addition to prepping for class, I cleaned out my closet, I worked on sewing projects, I researched furniture sales, and I reorganized our file cabinet with the help of a freaking LABEL MAKER (which I bought specifically for that purpose).  All in the name of Distraction.  Because sometimes (read: often) I need to think about anything but babies/pregnancy.

8) I read nothing about pregnancy.

Last time, I read everything I could get my hands on.  Books, blogs, websites, magazines--if it was about pregnancy, natural childbirth, breastfeeding, parenting, baby products, children's toys, I wanted to read it.  I thought the more information I had, the better prepared I'd be.  Well, nothing prepared me for what happened.  And while it's true that my brain can recall a whole lot of what I read while pregnant with Eliza, I just don't let myself think about it.  I don't go to pregnancy websites, I don't browse for baby clothes, I don't look at pregnancy calendars, I'm not going to take another childbirth class.  There is no way I could be more prepared than I was the first time around, so this time I refuse to do that stuff.  After all, I've done this before.

9) I've scaled back on reading about grief.

There was a time when I wanted to read Everything Ever Written On the Internet Or In A Book about stillbirth or grief or loss or death or sadness.  I wanted to hear every story.  I wanted to know that I wasn't alone.  It's still true that I wand and need to know that I'm not alone, but I no longer want to be immersed in that kind of story.  I'm just in a slightly different place right now.  I'm eternally grateful for the parents I've met who are struggling with the same grief that we deal with every day, but I think of ya'll as friends, not as grief-stories.  I no longer troll the internet for blogs about loss, and I rarely (or never) visit some of the websites that were lifelines to me in the early days.  It's not because I don't care about those stories, or because I don't want to connect with people who have experienced a similar sorrow, but because sometimes (lots of times) it's just healthier for me to spend that time baking banana bread or watching The Big Bang Theory or reading a book.  At first I felt guilty and strange about that, but I'm trying to accept that my grief is evolving and this is where I need to be now.

10) I listen to '90s rock.

I know this sounds stupid, but usually I listen to NPR in the car (nerd alert! nerd alert!) and sometimes it makes me feel too anxious.  Guess what?  The economy is still bad.  The environment is going to hell in handbasket.  The Republican primary is going on and Newt Gingrich scares me.  Nobody is confident that Barack Obama will get reelected.  And if you think THAT's bad, let me tell you about the lack of education for young girls in Afghanistan, or transient teenagers dying in a warehouse fire, or Heidi Klum and Seal's divorce (I'm starting to think that renewing your vows is just asking for trouble...).  Sometimes the world is just too much.

So instead I listen to the gen-x radio station.  Because when these songs were cool, I was not tired and frightened and grieving.  I was confident and young and unafraid of life.  And, amazingly, even now those songs can transfer me right back to cruising around town in my 1968 Plymouth Valiant, with the Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead and Alanis Morissette and Bush playing on my tape deck.  There are a lot of wonderful songs I love to listen to that make me think about Eliza, but Green Day doesn't sing any of them and sometimes I need to turn off the Eliza playlist and turn on Pearl Jam.  It's amazing how a soundtrack can alter your mood sometimes.


So that's how I manage the fear.  It's an imperfect system to be sure.  I just hope it's good enough to get me through the next 22-ish weeks.  Any other tips or suggestions you can offer me?  (Except I don't want to hear how much you love your Doppler, peeps.)  Anyone else use a label maker?  Anyone else sometimes feel guilty about or surprised by their way their grief evolves?  Anyone else looooove '90s music as much as I do?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Another Good-bye

As I said in the last post, David's grandpa passed away earlier this week.  We're at his grandma's house now, dealing with the aftermath of the memorial service, hitting my limit of time with the in-laws, eating copious amounts of food, and wishing everybody was here for some other reason.

There's so much that could be said about Gene Whillock (he was funny and ornery and generous and kind), but I don't think I could say it any better than David did in the eulogy that he gave at the memorial service, so I'm just going to post the letter that he wrote here.  He read this letter to his grandpa a few days before his death, and he shared it with everyone who attended the funeral.  

To use his words, Gene Whillock was a good ole boy.  He was a good friend, a hard worker, a great husband and the best grandfather a boy could ask for.  As many of you know, my grandpa could tell a story.  And before he passed away, I wanted to remind him of a few of my favorite stories, so I wrote him a letter that I would like to share with you.

Dear Grandpa,

Saying good bye is never easy, and too often saying good bye comes too late.  So before we have to say our farewells to each other, I want to make sure you know how proud I am of you and how much I appreciate everything you have done for me.  Grandpa, all my life I have looked up to you.  And as I was growing up, I wanted to be just like you. 

I remember as a child, your alarm going off in what seemed the middle of the night as you prepared for work that day.  Later that morning I would go off to school, looking forward to you picking me up that afternoon.  You would pick me up each day from school, take me McDonald’s or Arby’s, whichever was giving away the best toy, and we would go back to the house for a snack and my favorite, a game of catch.

When you worked second shift, I remember wanting to stay up late to see you when you got off work.  I would often take a nap after school, just so I could be awake for some cheese and crackers when you got home.  And on the weekends, you would always make time to hit me fly balls in the back yard.

Often you would take long trips to help on “special projects” for Boeing.  Although I never looked forward to you leaving, I remember how excited I was to see you when you returned.  Going to the airport to pick you up was like Christmas day for me.  Not only because you brought me back something special from your trip, but because my grandpa was back.  We would walk down to the local school yard with my bat a glove and you would hit me grounders for what seemed hours.

Through the years I have heard your many stories about Boeing and looked up to how hard you worked.  You taught me to be the hard worker that I am today.

As a child I remember taking walks with you and Grandma around the neighborhood.  Often I would ride my big wheel tricycle or you would pull me in my wagon (the one you gave me as an early Christmas present).  What I remember about those walks the most was the time we spent together as a family.

I also remember our family vacations.  I remember loading the camper in the back of the truck and going to the lake for the weekend where you taught me to fish.  I remember trips to Saint Louis to watch a ballgame.  My favorite vacation we took as a family was our trip to Walt Disney World.  We loaded up the silver Lincoln and headed south.  Although I ended up with terrible sunburn, it was a great trip.  

Although our family vacations were memorable, it was our family dinners I will remember most.  Grandma would be working hard in the kitchen and you would be out back on the grill and I would be in between, just watching and learning from both of you. 

Fifty years is a long time, and I will never forget getting to celebrate your fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Brooke and I went through pictures of you and Grandma, putting them together into a slide show to the Alan Jackson tune of “Remember When.”  It made me realize you taught me not only to be a good person, but also a good husband.

Growing up, I wanted to be a major league baseball player.  I would throw that old rubber ball against the house countless times pretending to be Ozzie Smith of the St. Louis Cardinals turning a double play to win the World Series.  Other times we would stand in the back yard and play catch or you would hit me fly balls.  I also remember learning the game of baseball as we sat around the radio listening to the St. Louis Cardinals or on those special occasions when we would get to see them on the TV.  You would tell me about the players and explain the details of the game to me.  You taught me the game was as much mental as it was physical.

As I got older, my dreams of a shortstop began to fade, but I turned into a pretty good pitcher.  I always looked forward to looking up into the crowd and see you cheer me on.  You traveled far and wide just to watch me play.  And after a big win, my favorite thing to do was to flip you the game ball as a keepsake and a thank you for coming out to watch me play. 

When my playing days in college days were over, you took me to Atlanta to watch the All-Star Game.  That trip will always be one of my favorite memories.  We loaded up the hertz rental car and headed to Georgia for the homerun derby and the 2000 All-Star game.  Sammy Sosa amazed the crowd with his homeruns in the derby and we saw the likes of Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Randy Johnson, and Jimmy Edmonds shine in the All-Star game.  When the 9th inning was over and the fireworks went off, it was the American League who won the game.  On our way home from that trip, I realized my dreams of playing in the World Series were coming to an end.  Although I was moving into a new chapter of my life, I was prepared because I had you showing me the way.

A few years later, I asked you if I could borrow your car, and not just any car, your Mustang.  I didn’t need it for a long trip, just from the Methodist church in Nevada to the 3M clubhouse as Brooke and I left our wedding.  Some of my favorite pictures from that day are us in your Red Mustang, with you behind the wheel.

Somehow, this crazy life led me to St. Louis where Brooke and I started our future together.  I will always remember your visits to St. Louis and our times at the ballpark, cheering on our favorite Cardinals to victory.  In my lifetime, we have seen three Cardinals World Series titles.  Not one was better than this year as our underdogs came out of nowhere to become the World Series Champs.  I will always cherish sitting at your house, by your side, during Game Seven of the 2011 World Series as we watched our team win the championship. 

As you know, the past year has been the hardest time of my life.  Brooke and I lost our daughter Eliza, and now I have to say good bye to you.  Before you leave, I want you to know how proud I am of you and I will make you proud of me.  I will be a good friend, I will work hard every day, I will be a great husband, I will take care of Grandma, and someday pass on everything that you have taught me.  I just ask one last thing of you, that you find my angel Eliza, and take care of her like you did for me for so many years.  I love you Grandpa and I will think of you every day.

Your grandson, 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

David's Grandpa

In memory of Arthur Eugene "Gene" Whillock.  
December 31, 1933 - January 23, 2012
Husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, friend, and Cardinal fan.

Gene spent his childhood barefoot and wearing overalls.  He looks so cute in this picture, but he actually had a very rough childhood.  As David's grandma says, he just didn't have anybody to ever say they loved him.  He left home at age 14  and made his own way in the world.  He grew up to be the kind of dad and grandpa that he never had.

This is how he looked around the time he met David's grandma.  Peggy remembers that little curl on his forehead.  She found it pretty irresistible.
Our favorite picture of David's grandparents.  His grandpa is such a flirt.

At their wedding.  David's grandma embarrassed both of us yesterday by telling us that his grandpa was a "perfect gentleman" before their wedding.  Unlike some of her other boyfriends who "just wanted to make out"!

David, his grandpa, his aunt Lana, and his grandpa's sideburns.  Those sideburns can practically stand alone.  I love David's little overalls.  And his blonde hair!

Family photo, sometime in the early '80s.  I love David's sassy hand on the hip, and his cowboy boots.  He was so proud to be dressed just like Grandpa.  The sideburns are still rocking.

David and two people who think the sun rises and sets in him.  We love the pocket protector, too.

My miniature golf buddy.

Hanging out on the back porch after working in the yard.  Little Mac claimed her own chair (typical).
Breaking the rules at Grandma's house--no dogs EVER allowed on the furniture!  Sometimes Gramps makes his own rules.

53 years of marriage, sparks still flying.

Last year, David gave his grandpa a personalized bat from the Louisville Slugger factory.  No grandson could have been prouder of his grandpa, and no grandpa could have been prouder of his grandson.
Two Cardinal fans, heading to another game.
There's just nobody quite like Gene.  He was funny and ornery and generous and kind.  He was quite the storyteller, and even though he couldn't always express his emotions, he was a tender-hearted guy who would have done anything for anyone in his family.  We're all going to miss him, but I know that it's especially hard for David's grandma (they were married for 53 years) and for David, who had to say good-bye to his biggest fan, his fishing buddy, and one of his favorite people in the world.  Thanks for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Not Better, Not Worse

A member of David's family made a comment over the weekend that hurt me a lot.  I'm still rolling it around, and flinching at the way it continues to bruise.  It was not mean-spirited, or said with malice.  It was one of those things people say when they are trying to make sense of something that doesn't make sense, and they're trying to fit an unthinkable truth into a narrative that they are comfortable with, and they're speaking from their perspective instead of trying to understand how you feel, because inhabiting your perspective would be too hard and too scary and too painful.

This person said, in regard to Eliza, "If it had to happen, it's better that it happened when it did.  Because it would be so much harder to lose a child when they are one or two and you've gotten to know them and their personality, you know?"

I wasn't actually part of the conversation.  It was between David and this family member, and it was a major step that anyone was actually talking about Eliza, because his family has not been the greatest about that kind of thing, and I was sort of half-listening to the conversation while also messing around on the iPad (because Pinterest is a priority in my life, people).  I was proud of David for the things he was saying about Eliza, and I was touched that this family member was saying her name and acknowledging our loss, and then suddenly he went on and said that, and my throat just closed up and my heart felt like a cold hunk of raw meat thudding against my chest.

I held my breath, waiting to hear what David would say.

He made a noncommittal noise, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, and deliberately shifted the subject to talk about her memorial tree.

I took a deep breath.  And then I let it go.  At that moment, I couldn't articulate an argument that made sense, even in my own head.  But I wanted to scream "NO! It's not like that!  It's not that easy!  That comparison doesn't even WORK!"

I understood why David did not engage with this person.  As nice as this guy is, he'd be the first to admit that he's opinionated and aggressive, and he's prone to talking about subjects at great length, and unless David truly wanted to engage in an hour-long pseudo-philosophical debate about the hypothetical "betters" or "worses" of child loss, there was no point in disputing his comment.  I didn't blame David for not openly disagreeing with him, and I certainly didn't want to speak up.

But I wish he knew that he is wrong.  That he is SO freaking wrong.

The problem is, I used to think the same thing.  That it would be easier if you'd never known the baby.  How attached can you get to a child you never actually met outside your belly?  How attached can you get in just a few hours at a hospital?  Certainly it would be easier to lose a baby you've barely known than to lose a baby to SIDS, or a toddler to leukemia, or a grade-school child to a hit and run car accident, right?

The truth is, there is no "better" time for a child to die.  It would be horrifying to lose a child who is ten days old.  Four months old.  Two years old.  Six years old.  Sixteen.  It would be stunning and traumatizing and soul-scorching, and the recovery would be arduous and agonizing.  There is absolutely no disputing that.  I would never suggest that my loss is harder or worse than someone else who has lived through the death of their child.  Heartbreak is heartbreak, and there is no point in trying to compare.

Still, it was a revelation to me that it would be equally terrible and heartbreaking to have a much-loved and much-wanted baby who never got to come home.  I know, because I tried to rationalize it in my own head in those early days, trying to figure out some way to endure what I'd always imagined I couldn't survive.  I looked for that elusive silver lining.  I tried desperately to believe that this horrible, darkened, depleted version of my life was somehow better than some other version might have been.  Was this easier than having her die later?  "At least..." I would think, "At least..."  But there was no way to finish that sentence.  Why did she have to die at all?  "At least she never felt any pain."  That was the best I could do.

We'd all agree in general that "quick and painless" is better when it comes to the type of death, but I cannot find a method of evaluating the timing of the loss of a child that makes it one bit easier or better than any other day or year.  Two months.  Twenty-six years.  Any parent who outlives their son or daughter will tell you that they weren't given enough time.  

What I'm trying to say is that the fact that she died before she was born did not, in fact, make her loss better or easier.  Just different.  But equally sad.

The truth is, there's a dark, twisty part of me that envies parents who have memories of live babies, laughing babies, quiet time rocking or nursing, bubble baths and pink pajamas, even if those babies later died.  You see, I lost those things, too, but I never got to have them to begin with.

Our house felt so empty when we came home without Eliza, despite the fact that she'd never really been there.  It would have been different, certainly, if a baby monitor had suddenly gone silent, if our kitchen was stocked with bottles or sippy cups, if there had been a load of her laundry in the dryer.  But just because she hadn't ever slept in her room, or crawled across our floors, or splashed in our bathtub, that didn't make being home without her better or easier.  It was as hollow and crushing and painful as any other loss.  And anyone who thinks differently is wrong.

David and I can talk now about my pregnancy with Eliza, and remember some of the sweet moments with a smile.  But we don't have shared memories of her alive.  We don't have stories to tell about her with our families.  We can't reminisce about the time she did this or that.  We have no good times that include Eliza on the outside.  It's such a lonely ache, to love a child who never got to live.

And it hurts to have that ache diminished by someone who insists that it's better or easier this way.

It comes down to this:  There is no better when a child dies.  Not for the people who are left behind.

Not knowing her personality does not make our loss easier to bear; it adds its own particular brand of pain.  We'll never know.  We're simply left to wonder.  As long as we live.  Far from making it easier to let her go, not having been able to know her is its own special brand of torture.

And we will so often encounter people--people who love us, people who would have loved Eliza, people who are kind and well-meaning--who will fail to understand or properly honor our loss because they want to believe it was better that it happened like it did.

I tell myself that it's not my responsibility to educate everyone I know.  It's not my job to have to coach everyone and explain over and over again what we're feeling.  I can't change people's minds, and I certainly can't change their world-view.  Many people say that others will never understand unless they've been there, and while I disagree with that to a point (I think there are people who are incredibly understanding even though they've never suffered a loss like this), I get where they're coming from.  So many people just don't GET IT, and they don't really try to.  And you can't go around insisting that everyone respond to your loss exactly the way you want them to (exactly the way they should), all of the time.  It would be impossible and exhausting and you'd make yourself crazy.

So I took another deep breath and sat quietly, staring at Pinterest until the knot in my throat loosened, and I half-listened as the conversation took its course and they moved on without this gross misperception being corrected or disputed.

I told myself that I do not need to assert my point of view all the time, that it's not my job to correct him.  I told myself that ultimately it doesn't matter what this one person thinks, even if he is totally incorrect, and even if his comment seems to diminish our loss.  Eliza was real and our pain is real, and I do believe this person understands that, and that's what is most important.

I told myself that staying quiet was a means of self-preservation and keeping peace in the family.

I told myself that keeping silent was not a betrayal of my daughter.

But still, a little bit, it feels that way.

I mean, seriously.  Better?  The only thing that would fucking be better is to have not lost her at all.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Miss Her Still

I visited my best friend last weekend and I held her new baby--just over two weeks old.  Ellie Kate is positively adorable, all blue eyes and blond fuzz and soft skin, and she slept draped across my chest, milk-drunk and lovely.  I held her and my eyes filled up with tears, and over the wheeze of the breast pump that my friend was using as she sat on the couch next to me, I patted that sweet, sleeping baby and said, "I'm so scared I'll never have this."

She told me that I will, and most of the time I almost believe her.

I am so, so grateful to be pregnant.  I think we honor the love we have for Eliza by wanting to have another baby.  She made us parents and it's a testament to her that we want so much another chance to raise a child, to have more of the joy of parenting and less of the sorrow.  I feel so lucky--so dangerously, cautiously, fearfully lucky--to be able to hold on to the hope that we will have another chance to experience those simple pleasures (and, yes, even the frustrations) of having a baby.

But I'll never have that chance with Eliza.

And as much as I already love the Deuce, as much as this baby is wanted and welcomed, this pregnancy has not changed for one moment how much I want Eliza back.

I still want THAT baby, my first baby, my sweet girl.

I want us to have THAT life, the one I thought for sure was meant to be, the one where we're like everybody else and we watch our kids grow up and our heartaches are far in the future.

I want us to be THOSE parents, the ones who never cradled a dead child, who never cried themselves to the point of oblivion, who never tasted the metallic chill of that sort of fear and loss.

And I think to myself, if I could trade it, if I could have a thirteen-month-old baby girl and not be pregnant again, I'd take that deal in second.

I know I won't always feel that way.  I've been assured by other moms who have endured a loss that a trade becomes unfathomable, and you just want ALL your kids (and really, is that too much to ask?).

I know that these hypothetical bargains with the universe are stupid and a waste of time and a kind of self-torture.  And why?  To prove how much I love Eliza?  To make myself feel guilty (guiltier?) for all the mixed feelings that accompany The Deuce?

It's just that I miss her.  And now that I'm pregnant, it's kind of like my grief has become more focused.  It's not so much about what I'll never have (although that fear is still very real), but it's about what I'll never have with her.

And really, it was always about that.  I wrote long ago about how even I was sort of stunned about how much I could love her as an individual and her own little person, when I'd never really known her outside my belly.  I knew all along, as we all know, that children are not replaceable or interchangeable.  But as my heart expands--cautiously, reluctantly even--to make room for the Deuce, as I let the hope of having another baby enter into my consciousness, I realize all over again how much we've lost that we can never get back.

Eliza is so many things to me, but she never gets to just be that sweet baby we brought home from the hospital, the one whose diapers we changed, and whose smile lit up our home.  She never gets to assert her little personality and develop her own little quirks.  She never gets to crack us up with her facial expressions, or astonish us with her brilliance, or delight us with her athletic prowess (as she undoubtedly would have, right?).  She is a precious symbol of unconditional love, she is our firstborn daughter and our Baby Duck, but she doesn't just get to be what we wanted most.  Our little girl.

As I've said before, I can't deny the many gifts that Eliza has brought to us.  The way she has connected me to other people, the way she has opened my eyes to the suffering that happens all around us, the way she showed me my capacity for love was beyond what I had even imagined.  I will be a better mom because of her.  I will be a better wife and daughter and sister and friend because of her.  I will be a more compassionate and understanding person because of her.  My love for The Deuce is shaped by having loved her.  I know that my life is richer and fuller and brighter and fiercer than it would be if I'd never loved and lost Eliza.

But my life will never be what it could have been if she were here.

Oh, I miss her.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

No Answers

I like to know things.  I like to do research.  I like to read many opinions and ideas about a subject before making up my mind.  I like to find the answers.  I like to analyze problems.  I like to connect dots and draw conclusions and support them with evidence from the text.  I spent the last ten years of my life practicing this skill.

I don't like it when I can't figure something out.

Unlike my pregnancy with Eliza, I have done very little reading and research this time around.  I'm actually relying more on my doctors and less on Google (mostly because I don't need to be more worried than I already am).  What I do know is that at this point in my pregnancy, all the statistics are in my favor.  I know that I'm being closely monitored and there is what one of my doctors likes to call a "safety net" around my pregnancy this time.  I know that I'll have high-tech ultrasound and non-stress tests and kick counts and we'll do everything we can to make sure this baby is okay.  I'll take all the necessary precautions (and probably a lot of unnecessary precautions as well).

But I keep coming back to the same question:  When you don't know what went wrong the first time, how do you prevent it from happening again?

I'm seeing two doctors for this pregnancy.  My regular OB from last time, a very kind man who promised me that what happened last time won't happen again, and a maternal fetal medicine specialist who only takes high-risk patients (I know, I'm so special).  She's the only woman in her practice, and she manages to be both warm and nurturing and also sassy and no-nonsense.  I like and trust them both.  Since I have two doctors, I have an appointment about every two weeks.  Plus high tech ultrasounds (two so far, another scheduled for early February).  Later in my pregnancy, I'll go in for weekly and then bi-weekly non-stress tests and bio-physical profiles that will track the baby's heart rate and movements and measurements and mood swings (ok, not really, but that would be interesting).

Our last ultrasound looked good.  The doctor was encouraging and optimistic.  The Deuce was measuring right on target, growth appeared to be exactly perfect, body parts were proportional (and adorable), heart rate was strong and steady.

But guess what?  They said the same thing about Eliza at that stage.  And at 20 weeks.  And at 24 weeks.  So "good growth" only brings me so much comfort.

Eliza was declared perfect at every. single. doctor appointment and ultrasound that I had. But at 34 weeks and 3 days, I suddenly and rapidly went into labor.  By the time I got to the hospital (just two and a half hours after I first started having contractions), I was fully dilated and Eliza had no heartbeat.  An hour later she was born.  And NO ONE CAN EXPLAIN what happened.  Not from my blood tests ("normal"), not from autopsy results ("normal"), not from the placenta pathology report ("normal").  There is no clear explanation for why a healthy, PERFECT baby died.

So once again, I ask:  If you don't know what caused a baby's death, how do you prevent it from happening again?

My OB, bless his heart, the older gentlemen with the beard, is so soft spoken and gentle and kind.  But when we first discussed trying to get pregnant again, I asked him that question, and he actually hit his desk with his fist as he said, "This will NOT happen again."

So here is what you do when you have no answers:

You try to trust your doctors and their medical equipment.  You take a baby aspirin every day.  You take extra folic acid.  You take a lot of deep breaths.  You wonder many times a day if the baby is actually still alive.

And you freaking hope you get lucky this time.

Because there's really nothing you can do.

I mean, seriously, a BABY ASPIRIN?  You're telling me that's what stands between life and death for The Deuce?  A pill I can buy over the counter without a prescription, in fact I don't even have to be 18 to buy it!  A CHILD could buy this "lifesaving" drug!  A pill that is so small I could swallow it without water if I had to?  My doctor assures me that aspirin is actually a remarkable drug because it can cross the placenta and work for the baby as well as the mom.  I asked her why they don't give it to all pregnant women--do you know how crazy it makes me to imagine that a fucking baby aspirin a day could have saved Eliza?--and she acknowledged the validity of my question--and probably the fury behind it as well.  She said there are some risks involved with any blood thinner during pregnancy.  Along those same lines, she didn't recommend that I do Heparin or Lovenox injections--believe me, I asked--which was somewhat disappointing because, as it turns out, Fear of Dead Baby totally trumps Fear of Needles.  And OMG isn't there SOMETHING I can do besides take a FREAKING baby aspirin?

My doctors assure me that I should actually consider it to be a positive thing that I don't have a specific health issue, like a clotting factor or genetic abnormality that caused Eliza's death.  But I think that would at least give me something specific to TREAT, something to FIX.  I mean, give me something to work with here!  They think that my perfect health history means I'm likely to have a successful pregnancy this time, but to me, it just feels like there's something mysterious and medically undetectable that could kill this baby just like it killed Eliza.

If Eliza's heart stopped beating sometime between 34 weeks 1 day (I felt her move for sure on Saturday the 4th) and 34 weeks 3 days (on Monday, when she was born), then who is to say that The Deuce's heart won't suddenly stop beating at 16 weeks, or 20 weeks, or 36 weeks?

Statistics are supposed to be on my side.  The doctor who read my last ultrasound told me we have a 97% chance of bringing home this baby.  He said (and I quote), "Diapers are almost certainly in your future."  (Anybody else only hear the "almost" in that sentence?)  But I just know that he would have said the same thing if he'd seen Eliza's ultrasound at 14 weeks.  And that is what keeps tripping me up.

It all comes down to this:  We have lots of questions.  We have no answers.  And if The Deuce lives (and it's likely The Deuce will live, at least according to all the information we have right now), we'll probably never know why this baby was okay and Eliza was not.

Unlike baby aspirin, I have a hard time swallowing that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Introducing The Deuce

So here's the deal.  I'm pregnant.

Shocking, I know, right?  I'm pretty sure most people guessed it from my not-too-subtle end-of-2011 post.

I'm just over sixteen weeks along.  Yup, that means that the month after I posted this, I got a positive pregnancy test.  It was not that easy, though, and I may write a little more about that later.

So now I'm pregnant.  At least, I think I am.  Let's be honest, I haven't heard the heartbeat since my doctor appointment on January 11th, so there's plenty of room to wonder--are you still alive in there, baby? (I freaking hope so).

Anyway, we feel exactly the way you might expect.  We're thrilled and we're terrified.  And we basically ride the waves of those emotions up and down on any given day.

We didn't know what to call this baby, since Baby Duck was already taken by Eliza, and if Eliza were here, asserting her toddlerhood, we might have space for another Baby Duck in our hearts and conversations, but, well, she is our Baby Duck.  So this is... Baby Duck Number Two?  And that was just too long to say over and over again.  So that's how this baby became The Deuce.

(Also because we're very klassy and we can't come up with a nickname for our second child that is not also a synonym for poop.)

I've been waiting to post about this pregnancy because I still feel like every time I mention it, I'm just inviting disaster.  But guess what my therapist told me?  There's absolutely no correlation between talking about pregnancy and pregnancy loss.  (It sounds so obvious in retrospect, but she said that and I thought to myself, "OMG.  This is why I'm paying to talk to you.  Because you say logical and rational things that I need to hear.")  We also waited a while to tell people we know in real life, and I didn't want word getting around through the wilds of the interwebz (Where, you know, everyone is just ABUZZ about what might be going on in my uterus.  It's like I'm Beyonce or something.)

So anyway, that's where we are.  At this point, things appear to be going well.  (But remember, says the dark, twisty voice in my head, things also appeared to be going perfectly well with Eliza).  In all probability, this baby will be okay.  But we know better to put complete faith in statistics (probability can kiss my ass), and we are still a long way from my official due date of July 1.

So wish me luck.  Because I think we freaking need it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pool Attendants

One of the glorious things about our resort in Mexico was that we could SO completely lazy.  It is possible that my muscles slightly atrophied from doing nothing but walking from the room to the pool, back to the room, and then to the restaurant for dinner.  It was just so deliciously lazy.

The pool was never crowded and it was always well-staffed by attendants who brought chilled bottles of water and any drinks or food that you'd like to order from the snack menu.  We ate nachos and quesadillas for lunch a couple of days, I fell in love with their lemonade (which was more like a sparkling limeade) and David discovered his new favorite girly-beverage:  The Miami Vice (half pina colada, half strawberry daquiri).

I have to say, though, it was weird for me to be the girl in the lounge chair being offered cool towels, fruit kebabs, and fresh bottles of water.

It was weird because it was Christmas and totally not like Christmas, of course.  It was weird because I was desperately sad and missing Eliza but also grateful to be lying in the sunshine.  It was weird because we have never taken a vacation that wasn't full of sight-seeing and scheduled-to-the-minute self-imposed itineraries.

It was weird because, once upon a time, I was not the girl in the lounge chair.  I was the pool attendant.

I wanted to tell them that I sympathize with how heavy that bin full of wet towels is at the end of the day, and how you have to be careful as you push it to the laundry because if it gets a lot of momentum, there's no stopping it from careening off the sidewalk.

I wanted to tell them that I know it's not easy to balance a frozen drink in a plastic cup with a stem, because I definitely poured a banana cabana all over an old guy's feet my first day on the job.

I wanted to tell them that they deserve every dollar they make out there in the sun, waiting hand and foot on people who barely look up from the electronic reading devices.

Because I KNOW what it's like to be on the other side of that tray of nachos.

My friend Natalie and I decided one summer in college that it would be fun to spend the summer in Arizona.  My aunt invited us (at least, I don't think we invited ourselves, but it is entirely possible) to stay with her, and we scored jobs at the Four Seasons resort that was about two minutes from her house.  It was gorgeous, and we thought working at the pool would be fun!

So yes, the scenery was lovely.  The job was...  well, here's a fun fact:  when you work outside all day and the temperature is 112 degrees Fahrenheit, you can drink all the water you want and barely have to pee because you just sweat it out.  Also:  When you have to wear all white shoes and you find all white shoes so unbearably uncool that you buy the cheapest pair of Keds possible and then you're on your feet walking on hot cement for seven hours a day, your feet will freaking hurt.

We weren't twenty-one yet, and we didn't know anybody else in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area.  We shared Natalie's little car (a Toyota Echo named Eddie) and we spent almost all of our hard-earned wages at Fashion Square mall, buying shorts from Express and shirts from The Limited.  Fashion was our outlet, you see, because the six days a week that we were hard at work, we were stuck wearing this:

Yes, it really was THAT hideous.

Natalie just might kill me for this.
It was enough to give a nineteen-year-old girl an existential crisis:

Should I have gotten an internship instead?  What am I doing with my life?  Why am I wearing this heinous outfit?  What if I see someone I know?
Anyway, we somehow survived the summer.  We became quite proficient at the NYTimes crossword, which we would each surreptitiously pull from the complimentary newspapers provided for the guests, and then work on furiously whenever we had a spare moment at our respective Pool Attendant Stations.  Then we'd either call each other on our Pool Attendant Station Phones For Professional Use Only, or ask each other on our rounds around the pool--"four letter word for Cleopatra's reptiles?" (answer:  ASPS).

We dealt with wealthy, privileged, crazy customers.  The woman who had alarming rock-hard, softball-sized breasts and asked Natalie if it would be a problem if she sunbathed topless.

Natalie (blushing):  Uh, I'll have to ask my manager!

(His answer:  As long as there aren't any kids around, and none of the other guests complain.)

The woman who asked me if it would be all right if her dachshund swam in the pool with her.

Me:  I'm sorry, we just can't allow animals in the pool.  It's against hotel policy.

Dog Lady:  But he is a very clean dog!  And he loves to swim!  Am I just supposed to leave him in the room and swim without him?

Me:  Um, well, why I don't have you talk to my manager.

(His answer:  No dogs in the pool, but we can arrange for someone from the daycare facility to stay with your dog if you don't want him to be alone.)

The family who let their kid poop in the kiddie pool, and then just left without saying anything, leaving poop nuggets floating.  (I had to call the Engineering Department rather than Housekeeping to deal with this issue as it was a Sanitary Problem Requiring Chemicals).

Me:  Hello, Engineering.  We have, uh, a problem at the kiddie pool.  Involving poop.

Engineering:  Are you kidding me?

Me:  I wish.

And then there was the week that the entire resort was rented out to an Australian bank.  Some kind of working holiday for their employees.  The resort went bonkers, stocking up on Fosters (you  know, because it's Australian for beer?).  The Aussies didn't want Fosters.  They wanted Corona.  Or Dos Equis.  They drank all the Corona in the resort, and someone had to call for a special delivery of More Corona for the Aussies.  (And these people loved to drink.  You know what they did not love to do?  TIP.  Is tipping not part of Australian culture?  Someone clue me in on this.  All I know is that we pounded the pavement, serving Coronas and refilling water and nobody wanted to give us any cash for it.

In addition to drinking Corona, the Australians wanted to wear Speedos.  Talk about a culture shock for a couple of Midwestern American girls.  Almost all the Australian bank employees were men, middle-aged and paunchy, and the first day that Natalie and I looked up from our crossword puzzles to see a bunch of dudes wearing Speedos and strutting around the pool...  Well, there was LOTS of giggling.

They were very friendly, though, jolly and joking around, and always calling us "Princess" or "Love" when they wanted us to fetch them another beer (which was constantly).  I remember Natalie speed-walking over to me with a panicked look on her face.  The old man with the white beard and the big belly and the Speedo with the British flag on the front and back?  He had just asked if Natalie would "be a love" and rub sunscreen on his hairy back.  (I can't remember if she did it or not...)

Oh, those were some times.

The outfit is worse with the hat, but at least we are more disguised as we offer guests ice water with citrus?  Evian spritzer?
Every hour on the hour, we'd have to go around the pool offering the guests a special treat.  Oshi-bori towel? (white washcloth, soaked in ice water, wrung out, rolled up tight, and stored in the freezer--preparing these was a much coveted job because you got to escape the heat for thirty minutes or so).  Evian spritzer?  (Evian water in an aerosol bottle that we would spray in people's faces.  Seriously.)

In some ways, it was really the most absurd job ever.

Natalie is happy to serve you a complimentary fruit kebab.  Or seven, if you're that one dude.
And we got to swim in that beautiful pool exactly once all summer long.  When we scrubbed gunky sunscreen and oil buildup off the tiles (and rubbed our fingers raw at the same time!).  After hours, of course.

As Natalie demonstrates, we were tempted many times to just jump in that water.
I think we learned some important lessons that summer, though.  We discovered that neither one of us was AT ALL interested in going into the hospitality industry.  We learned that if you go to the mall often enough, you will hit some great sales.  There is no way to make a hideous uniform any more attractive.  And we learned that if you're with the right friend, you can almost always find something to make you laugh so hard you collapse.  No matter how hot it is outside, or what terrible outfit you're wearing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The First Decade

Ten years ago today, I was substitute teaching at an elementary school in my home town.  It was winter break, my senior year of college.  I was twenty-one years old.  I was filling in for a second grade teacher and I had just lined up my students at the doorway of the classroom so they'd be ready when the PE teacher showed up to take them to PE.

The PE teacher was known as Coach Duck.  I'd seen him earlier that morning in the hallway.  He was cute.  He had boy-band hair and a really nice smile.  My heart kind of fluttered when he said hi to me.

I was wearing a jean skirt and a gray turtleneck and gray tights.  He was wearing Adidas pants and a Nevada Tigers t-shirt.  And tennis shoes.

When he got to the classroom, he said hello to me, told the kids to stand in line quietly, and then, with more cocky self-assurance than I could stomach, he strutted over to my desk and set down a small, folded piece of paper.  "Why don't you call me sometime?" he said.

Then he left, and I slumped back in the teacher-chair.  Did that just happen?  Did Coach Duck just pick up my students and drop off his phone number?  I was flattered, sure.  But I was not about to call him.  First of all, if you want to talk to me, ask for MY number, you arrogant jerk.  Also you wear sweatpants to work and you're athletic, which is pretty much grounds for immediate disqualification from my pool of suitors.  And I'd just gotten out of an intense and unhappy relationship, and I had been on a couple of dates with two different guys, both of whom were really cute and sweet and nice (although one reminded me of my high school boyfriend so much that it was a little bit eerie (I always wanted to call him Matt instead of Ryan) and the other one was too tall--I still refer to him as Too Tall John).

Anyway, I was home in Nevada for another week or so before going back to Columbia, and the last thing I needed was a date with some dumb PE coach (seriously, this was my judgmental attitude).  So I put the number in my purse, knowing I would never call him, and figured I had a good story to tell the girls when I got back to school.

A couple nights later, I was exhausted from substituting for a kindergarten classroom. (Newsflash:  Kindergarteners are super cute but totally incompetent.  These kids had to be reminded to blow their noses when snot was like dripping into their mouths, and they sometimes needed help zipping their jackets--and their pants.  I really thought children were more self-reliant by the time they got shipped off to school, but evidently not.  I knew it would be a rough day for me when the teacher's friendly notes to the sub suggested that I use her magical fairy wand if I needed to get the kids to settle down.  And THAT is why I teach college students.).  Anyway, the phone rang at my parents' house, and it was for me.


It was Coach Duck.


He had asked around, found out my mom worked at another school, and gotten my parents' number from the school directory.  So he called me and asked if I wanted to go out on Friday.

I mean, after all that effort, how could I resist?

Plus, you guys, he was (is) really cute.

He drove me to the Olive Garden, and proceeded to be so cute and charming and just so freaking nice that I had to see him again.  And again.  And again.

We did the long distance thing for a semester, spent all our time together the summer after I graduated, did the long distance thing for another school year (brutal!) when I left for grad school in St. Louis, and then he moved to St. Louis, we got engaged, and ten years later, here we are.

Brokenhearted, yes, but more in love than ever.  Here's to many more decades with the best guy I know.

And for your viewing pleasure:  A couple snapshots (don't adjust your monitor--they are slightly blurry) of us ten years ago.  Which do you love more?  David's floppy hair cut or his earring?  I can't decide.  I found them equally irresistible.  Obviously...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I have been making new year's resolutions as this fledgling of a new year has been rolling along.

I have found that rather than resolving things for myself and/or the benefit of my dog (Cooper needs to lose 5 pounds, therefore Brooke needs to walk Cooper briskly for 20 minutes at least 3 times a week), I much prefer to recommend resolutions to other people.  Mostly just David.  Which I'm sure is totally not annoying.

"You still don't have my cell phone number memorized?  You should make that a New Year's Resolution."

"Ahem.  Maybe you should make a new year's resolution not to look at your phone while your wife is talking to you.  Just a suggestion"

"You're working late AGAIN?  I think you should make a new year's resolution not to work late ever so that we can get more Netflix time in."

"OK, here is your new year's resolution.  DO NOT throw unopened mail on my desk (where it gets buried under exams from last semester and magazines with articles I want to save) unless you want to unleash my wrath."

"I'm just wondering if you could make a new year's resolution not to walk around while brushing your teeth so that you don't drool toothpaste on the rug."

I mean really, my suggestions are endless.  And I know David finds it SO INCREDIBLY helpful.  (You are so welcome, honey).

But really, I'm well aware that I have MORE than enough room for self-improvement.  (I'm sure David could suggest a couple resolutions for me...  like "Look in the cabinets before you go to the grocery store so you don't have to text your husband asking if we have black beans.  And enchilada sauce?  And apple sauce?  And orzo?  Triscuits?"  Or "Put clothes in hamper or back in closet instead of half-ass folding and setting them on top of the dresser to be determined clean or dirty at a non-specified later date.")  But you know.  Being married is all about embracing each other's idiosyncrasies and imperfections.

Last year at this time, I was unable to look far enough into the future to believe there might be some light after so much darkness.  But I did manage to survive those dark months, and the gray ones that come after.  And while I know that grief never goes away and that is is constantly evolving, I have also learned enough over the past thirteen months to know that there are things I can do for myself and for other people that will make me feel better even when I'm feeling sad.

(I actually have lots more to say on this, and really I want to hear from other people about strategies for making pockets of happiness in the midst of such great sorrow, but I think that will be a post of its own, so more on that later...)

So, without further ado, here are five things that I will try to do this year:

1. Walk Cooper at least 3 times a week.
It's good for both of us, it's free, and there is absolutely no reason why I can't do this.  Plus, the way he dances with excitement when he sees me open the leash cabinet puts a smile on my face.

2. Continue to take yoga classes at least once a week.
I think the first deep breath I took after Eliza died was at the end of a yoga class, four or five months out.  The first time I felt almost giddy with accomplishment (something I wasn't sure I'd ever feel again) after losing Eliza was when I managed to hold a handstand in class with minimal assistance.  I still don't really get what it means to feel "centered," but I know yoga is good for me, mentally and physically.  So I want to keep it up.  This will likely necessitate a trip to Lululemon--but you know I'll do what it takes to keep my resolutions!

3. Less computer time, especially at night.
The internet has been a lifeline for me, and there's no way I want to walk away from the connections that I've made.  But I have also let entire evenings get away from me as I blog-hop or browse shops online or google random queries or click "more pins" at the bottom of the Pinterest "Everything:" page--none of which add to my quality of life.  So I'm just going to be conscious about doing a little less of that.

4. Give proofs of love.
This is one lesson I've really learned this year--good intentions are just not enough.  It's actions that count.  So this year, I WILL take time to send a note, to send an e-mail, to send a card, to give a gift, to make a call, to remember birthdays and anniversaries, to tuck a love note in the pocket of David's shirt after I iron it for him.  I'm not saying I'll be perfect at this, but I know how much it matters and I really want to try.  Also, it makes me happy to do nice things for people I love, so this shouldn't be all that hard.

5. Work by day and relax by night.
This will be the hardest one to keep.  It is SO easy for me to get on my computer in my office and send e-mail and check the news and read a blog or two, and before I know it, my office hours are gone and I have gotten no grading done, and I still have to prep for tomorrow's class.  So then that work comes home with me, which makes me feel tired and overworked when actually we all know the real problem is procrastination.  I really want to be better at using my work-time wisely so that my home-time doesn't have to be spent working.

Notice that I'm not making any resolutions to think or feel differently.  I wish that I could just decide to "Be more optimistic!" or "Have a positive outlook!" but we all know that's not going to happen.  So I wanted to make resolutions that were important, but also realistic actions that I could do even if I didn't feel much like doing them.  Maybe someday I'll be able to be a little more Pollyanna, a little less Dostoevsky.  But I make no resolutions about that!

So that's it.  I'm posting the big 5 on my fridge, and in eleven and a half months, we'll see how successful I've been (there will be no fudging Cooper's waistline!).

Friday, January 6, 2012

Winter (Break)

Last winter was the snowiest one that I can remember.  Which was fine with me.  It was freezing and cold and I didn't want to be outside anyway.  I didn't want to be anywhere but under a blanket on my sofa.  I ended up teaching part time, two hours a day, three times a week, a class I'd taught several times before, and it was just the right amount of something to do and nothing too difficult to manage.  I canceled class twice because of snow.  David had several snow days, and I was so grateful to have him home with me.  We hibernated and cried and watched more television than I would have thought humanly possible.  It was a long, cold winter of my discontent.  The snows came early (before Eliza's birthday) and they stayed late (all the way through March, eliminating the blooms on her tree).

Now it's January and we've seen no snow so far.  (I guess maybe St. Louis got a few flurries while we were in Mexico, but nothing that stuck around).  It's almost sixty degrees today and sunny.  I walked the dogs yesterday without a coat.  Global warming has made me want to hyperventilate since I was in fourth grade, but I have to say that I am not complaining about these temperatures.  I do better with sunshine and without biting winds in general, but since freezing temperatures and snowfall are now associated with the greatest trauma of my life, I really like this pseudo-spring.  It's almost like being in Puerto Vallarta.

Almost.  But not quite.  Let me show you what it's like in Puerto Vallarta:

a leisurely breakfast at the resort restaurant, which overlooks the pool

my pedicure - Turquoise and Caicos

the view beyond my pedicure

just outside the lobby

at the beach

sunset dinner at the beach club


the sunset

wearing a shirt my mom got me (thanks, Mom!)

David at the marina

missing Eliza

David trying to make friends with a peacock at the resort

dessert and a bottomless glass of pinot grigio
As nice as the trip was, the truth is that skipping the holidays and fleeing to Mexico kind of felt like the lesser of two evils.  The holidays were going to be unbearable--the question was where did we want to be while we were hurting?  Even so, it ended up being a wonderful trip, and I'm so glad we went.  I still missed Eliza and the Christmas that should have been.  I was a little homesick even while we were lounging poolside.  But I'm confident that it was the right decision for us this year.  We needed to pause and give ourselves a chance to rest, relax, and reset.  Work was stressful for both of us this fall, not to mention life in general, and as I lay on the pool chair that first day, I could actually feel the tension start to evaporate from my shoulders.  If vacations were medically and mentally mandated, this one would have been.  It was the perfect getaway.  Now if we could only fast-forward through the rest of winter all together...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

grief book entry

One of the little things I started doing in the early weeks after we lost Eliza was to make a "grief book."  It was just a blank book or journal that I already had on hand (it happened to have a butterfly on the cover) but instead of writing my own thoughts in it, I copied down things that I read.  Poems, quotes, passages from books I was reading, anything that resonated with me, or that I hoped would resonate with me in the future.  If I found a picture or photo, online or in a magazine, that seemed to illustrate the way I was feeling, or match up with a particular text that I'd included, I'd cut it out and tape it in the book as well.  It was mostly something to keep me busy, to give me something to do that felt productive but wasn't difficult.  I still look at the book and I still add to it from time to time.  I look for more hopeful things now, which maybe says something I'm not ready to say about the grief process and the passage of time.

My friend Sarah e-mailed me this poem back in the early days, and it was one of the first things I copied down in the pages of my grief book.  It still touches a tender spot in my heart every time I read it.  It's a poem I want to share every time I hear of a mama who has had to say good-bye to her baby.

If it's meant for you, I hope you get something  you need from it.  And if you know someone who needs to read it, I hope you'll pass it on.

Blessed sister, beautiful one
with broken wings.
Your journey is a difficult one
that no mother should have to endure.
Your path is steep, rocky and slippery,
and your tender heart is in need of gentle healing.

Breathe deeply and know that you are loved.
You are not alone,
though at times, you will feel like a 
desolate island of grief
Close your eyes.
Seek the wisdom of women who have walked
this well-worn path before you,
and before,
and before you yourself were born.
Those beautiful ones
with eyes like yours
have shared your pain and
weathered the storms of loss.

You are not alone (breathe in).
You will go on (breathe out).
Your wings will mend (breathe in).
You are loved (breathe out).

~Mary Burgess