Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Breaking

Spring Break is half over and it has not exactly been what I imagined.  Basically, I've had two super productive days and four days on which I was out for the count with Horrid Stomach Ailment or OMFG Worst Sciatica of My Life.

Since I already detailed Horrid Stomach Ailment for you (Oh--but did I mention my last meal before barfing included salsa?  You're welcome!) I'll just say that sciatic flared up out of no where yesterday, right about the time I was thinking "Hmm... didn't sciatic plague me during my second trimester with Eliza?  And here I am almost to the third trimester with no issues..."  I was carrying a (small) load of laundry to the washing machine when a sharp pain shot through my lower back and I ended up on the kitchen floor, moaning and cursing.

I tried to appease the sciatic nerve with gentle stretching, good posture, and denial of the breathtaking pain running from my left shoulder blade all the way down my spine to my left butt cheek, but finally I gave up and spent the majority of the afternoon lying on my side with a heating pad.  For all my efforts, I ended up with nothing but a fierce headache and tense back muscles.  That nerve was all kinds of pissed off.  Finally David got home from work and gave me an excellent back massage (good enough to indicate that most of the time he is totally half-assing his back massages in order to hurry up and get them over with).  Still, I was so miserable by that point that there was nothing to do but watch Justified and go to bed.  My big plans for grading and other projects amounted to nothing.

I woke up this morning like nothing ever happened--sciatic what? (Except I did have a super disturbing dream  and I know it's horribly boring to read about other people's dreams, but bear with me because in this one, the Deuce was born; it was undetermined whether it was a boy or a girl, as I referred to the baby as both Eliza and Donald; and I was caring for the baby and yet forgot to FEED it.  At all.  Ever.  Then I remembered while at a baseball game with my friend Allison that I'd forgotten to feed the baby EVER, so we drove home (in the purple Pontiac she drove in college) so that I could nurse the baby, whose lips had turned black and who was crying, but who otherwise was no worse for wear.  I ask you:  What the HELL is wrong with my sleeping brain?).

I was determined that today would be a totally productive day to make up for yesterday.  And so far it has been!  I spent the morning at my favorite coffee shop, sipping a tall decaf (black).  I got a small stack of essays graded, and made some real headway on thoroughly outlining the article I'm writing (Yes; I decided to take some of the advice I give my students and actually organize my thoughts before I start drafting.  No; I will not be outlining blog posts so don't expect organization or clever thoughts here.)

I left the coffee shop smelling like coffee beans (I love how the smell seeps into my pores and my hair) and ran a few errands (post office, Target, car wash), then made it home to have lunch and grade another stack of essays.  Good times!  Well, at least I'll feel good when they are all freaking finished.

Over the past couple of weeks (in between work, grading, watching documentaries on the Amish, barfing, and nerve pain), I've also managed to accomplish some of my fun projects:  I completed the curtains I was sewing for my friend Jamie (and they look fabulous, if I do say so myself); I recovered an ottoman salvaged from a resale shop; I painted our front door a nice gray color that I think looks great with the yellow siding; and I did a couple of small Pinterest-inspired projects, including making a wreath for our front door from dollar-store fake flowers (It seriously looks just as good as the $40 ones in the store--which is to say that they sell crappy wreaths for $40!).  It's amazing what I could get done if I didn't have this pesky job to get in my way.

And now the illustrations:

Roman-shade curtains (there's a pair of these) will hang above Jamie's sink

matching valance for the window behind the kitchen table

from boring beige to chevron

the door was white and now it's gray - a small difference, but I like it

plain black v-neck with a ruffle created from one of David's grandpa's neckties

To round out my spring break week, I plan to finish my grading (Yes; all of it.  Ugh.), take my gestational diabetes test (on Saturday because I refuse to have blood drawn unless David is there to hold my hand), take a sewing class (in which I will learn at last how to put in a zipper!), and attend a trivia night that benefits the National Share Organization, which offers support groups for bereaved parents and sponsors the candlelight vigil held every year on Eliza's birthday.

Then I just have to get through five more weeks of class before summer break.  (!)

In other spring news, we visited Eliza's tree in Forest Park when ours in the front yard was in full bloom, and I was disappointed to see that her tree at the park was nothing but bare branches.  But my dad said that it was normal for a transplanted tree to be a few weeks behind schedule, and sure enough, a more recent visit to her tree proved that it will have some lovely pink flowers after all!

Planted in memory of: Eliza Taylor Duckworth.  Donated by: Her Parents.  We Love you, Baby Duck.

Eliza's pink flowers
The Deuce - 25 weeks
In the interest of comparison--here's the same dress at the end of the first trimester (in Mexico).

The Deuce - 14 weeks.  I thought I looked really pregnant here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Because Sometimes You Need Your Mom

David spent the weekend in Dallas with his college buddies.  He played baseball in college and he and his college buddies now get together every year to participate in a fantasy baseball league draft that also involves lots of drinking.  Naturally.

I was nervous about him leaving.  I have no reason to be worried about anything specific at this point in my pregnancy.  Every scan has been fine, my self-prescribed kick counts have been reassuring, I have been feeling good.  In the past week I've noticed Braxton-Hicks contractions, but nothing uncomfortable, frequent, or disconcerting.  Still, Eliza's 24-week ultrasound was picture-perfect.  I had no reason to worry about her, either.  So that thought has been nagging at me.

And I just couldn't shake the feeling that as soon as David left and I was home alone, that something bad would happen.

I decided that I'd go to my parents' house for the weekend.  There was lots of stuff going on--a fish fry at the Catholic church on Friday, a pancake breakfast my dad was working on Saturday morning, and I made plans to visit a friend and to see my Nana.  So my plan was to load up the dogs and leave Friday immediately after work, and come home Monday morning (since it was my spring break).

Thursday was a rough day for me, and I just thought I was just in a foul mood.  My students pissed me off because not a single one of them had done the assigned reading, so ten minutes into class, I told them that class was over for the day but they could look forward to having a quiz everyday after spring break and then I stomped out of the room.

The rest of the day wasn't much better.  I felt emotional and teary about David leaving even though it was only  for three nights.  I drove him to the airport and then went to yoga, which normally leaves me feeling much better.  Even yoga couldn't fix my tired and cranky, though.  I just felt off through the whole class.  My balance was nonexistent.  I had a hard time getting work worries/annoyances and pregnancy anxieties out of my mind.

I did not sleep well that night, and I got out of bed to get Tums from the medicine cabinet, thinking that would settle my stomach.

No such luck.

At 6am on Friday morning, I was puking my guts out in the bathroom.

Although needles still top my list of WORST things ever, puking is a VERY close second.  I rarely puke, and every time I do, it makes me cry.  Plus, I had to give two exams, finish packing my bags, and make a four-and-a-half-hour drive to my parents'.  I was home alone, and I felt absolutely miserable.

Also, the last time I barfed was when I was in labor with Eliza, so hello PTSD.  Barfing = Dead Baby.  Wonderful association.

So I collapsed back in bed, and it quickly became evident that this was not a puke-and-rally situation.  When I realized that there was no way I was going to feel good enough to drive to work, I called the dean of academics, my OB, and my mom to let everyone know that I was puking and it was terrible PLEASE HALP ME.

The dean assured me my exams would be taken care of, my mom offered me lots of sympathy, and the nurse I spoke with at my OB's office was super nice and understanding and told me to come in to the hospital if I couldn't keep down liquids for 24 hours, or if the baby quit moving, and then added that I should come on in if I just got scared and wanted to be checked out.

The Deuce was moving like crazy after my puke session, which was both reassuring and totally nauseating.  Honestly, feeling sick to your stomach and being repeatedly KICKED in said stomach is no more pleasant when the kicking occurs on the inside of your body than it would be if it occurred on the outside.  But I was so scared that all I wanted was for the baby to keep kicking so it was a weird kind of catch 22.

I managed to fall back asleep for most of the morning, but woke up around lunch time, freezing cold and aching all over.  The body ache was almost worst than the nausea.  I didn't have the energy to read or watch TV, so I knew it was bad.  The mere idea of getting out of bed and walking to the kitchen to get a 7Up felt totally daunting.  If David had been at work, I would have begged him to take a half a day and come home.

I was scared to be there by myself, I was scared the baby's movements would make me barf again, I was more scared that the baby would stop moving, I was scared that my fever would spike and I'd have to drive myself to the hospital, light-headed and feverish and nauseated.  Plus we had no saltine crackers or ginger ale in the house, and the nurse had told me to drink Gatorade or Pedialyte (neither of which we had on hand).

I mustered up the energy to text a friend (and neighbor) who promised to bring me crackers and soup and ginger ale and Gatorade when she got off work.  I also talked to David and told him my sob story ("I knew something bad would happen when you left!").  My mom said that she'd come up after work if I needed her to.  I hated for her to have to make the drive by herself (my dad couldn't get out of the pancake breakfast) and so I thought I'd try to take another nap and see how I felt after that, but I think David was as worried as I was, because he called and talked to her, and she texted me a little before two to tell me that she was just leaving town and was heading to St. Louis.  Honestly, it was the biggest relief ever and I was so happy to know that she was on her way.  Sometimes you just need your mom, you know?

So she drove all the way here to take care of me, and thankfully, things improved after Friday.  That was the most miserable day EVER.  It took everything I had to put on pants and move from my bed to the couch so that I could answer the door when my friend showed up with groceries.  I was still on the couch, half-heartedly watching a PBS documentary on the Amish when my mom arrived.  (Weirdly, there was one Amish kid in the documentary who looked EXACTLY like my brother--even my mom agreed).

By Saturday morning, the terrible ache in every part of my body had subsided and although I still had no appetite (and I'd eaten nothing but a few crackers), I no longer felt like my guts were actively revolting against me.  I had absolutely no energy, though, and my mom and I did NOTHING all weekend long (super weird for us--I don't think we've ever spent a weekend here and just stayed at home).  It was definitely not the most fun we've ever had, but I am SO glad that she drove up to stay with me.  The combination of feeling physically ill and feeling so anxious about how it might be affecting the baby was absolutely horrible, and it would have been intolerable to be all by myself.

Nothing else dramatic happened over the weekend, unless you count Cooper charging the mailman and leaping full-force at the screen door while barking his head off.

I still feel pretty depleted today, but definitely more human.  I picked up David from the airport and I've been laying low today, doing some reading and watching basketball (my Nana will be very disappointed in Baylor; my husband is very pleased with Kansas; I've been pissed off about the whole thing since Mizzou lost).

I have a lot that I want to get done this week, so I am counting on being on the up and up.  Right now, I'm pleased to say that I think my appetite is returning, and I'm really happy that the Deuce keeps kicking away.  And I'm so grateful that Eliza and the Deuce have such an awesome grandma.  Thanks for taking such good care of us, Mom!

Cheers to my mom!
(Note: This picture was NOT taken over the weekend; it was taken on our vacation to Canada last summer)

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Thing Is

Edited to add:  Lindsey pointed out that I missed the final line when I retyped the poem.  I wonder if that speaks to my state of mind today?  I'll take you, life, but that's about as far as we're going to get today.  The poem has now been corrected and posted in its entirety!

A friend shared this poem with me last week and lines of it have been flickering through my mind ever since.  It's an entry that I will be adding to my grief notebook.  This poem was read at a memorial for my friend's daughter, and it's a beautiful tribute to what has been lost and what has been left behind.  I think it's all about making a life you can love, even if it's not the gorgeous life you once thought was yours.

The Thing Is

The thing is
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat fills with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
When grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you.
I will love you, again.

~Ellen Bass

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Few Updates

* I had a 24-week ultrasound on Monday.  My parents were in town, so they came along and were able to sneak a peek at the Deuce, who looked as adorable as usual.  Measurements were right on target, even for a freakazoid paranoid neurotic like me, so there were no screaming melt downs.

It helped that we had a very chatty technician who had OBVIOUSLY taken the time to read my chart ahead of time and was so nice to us.  (I filled out a complimentary comment card about her because David and I both loved her so much.)  Also the doctor was great and he even signed off on scan of my cervix (that my OB told me he would order but evidently did not) because I was paranoid about it for no good reason except I JUST WAS.  I mean, what if this was the one thing I overlooked this time, you know?

At the end of it all, they gave me a print out of all baby's numbers and measurements, which made me immeasurably happy because PAPERWORK!  It makes me feel like I am in control of something!  I could stare at all the numbers to my heart's content.  The baby was measuring very nicely and overall growth was in the 49th percentile, which makes me very happy.  Head growth was slightly ahead compared to abdomen, (a couple of days) but nothing to be concerned about.  In fact, one of the doctors said that's because of the baby's big brain (of course, by "one of the doctors," I mean the pregnant girl with a PhD looking at her own baby on the screen).

* Eliza's tree at our house is blooming big time.  It's all pink and gorgeous and it's the prettiest thing on our whole block and I see her trees all over town now and sometimes I let myself imagine teaching the Deuce to identify them as Eliza's trees and it makes me all bittersweetly happy.

Eliza's tree

pink blossoms and blue sky
I'm so appreciative every time someone mentions that they saw a magnolia tree that made them think of Eliza.  In fact, I got an e-mail this morning from my favorite elementary school teacher saying that very thing.  Fills up my heart, you know?

* I'm teaching a Modern Fiction class this semester, and I assigned a short but gorgeous little novel called The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West.  I read this in grad school and loved it.  It's about a soldier who is injured in WWI and suffers from amnesia.  I don't want to give any plot spoilers away, but it just so happens that this soldier and his wife also had a baby boy who died (you find that out in the opening chapter).  Somehow THAT point resonates with me a little differently these days...  Anyway, it's a heartbreaking story that's beautifully written, and although this particular passage is not about the loss of a child, it's about grief, and it reminded me of those awful, early days:

Indeed grief is not the clear melancholy the young believe it is.  It is like a siege in a tropical city.  The skin dries and the throat parches as though one were living in the heat of the desert; water and wine taste warm in the mouth and food is of the substance of the sand; one snarls at one's company; thoughts prick one through sleep like mosquitoes...

* The weather is bizarrely warm here for March.  It's been around 80 all week long.  I do not have the maternity clothes for this.  I do not want to buy them.

* I downloaded a kick count app on my phone.  My doctor told me that we don't start kick counts until 28 weeks, but THIS doctor (by which I mean myself) says it's fine to start at 24 weeks.  Whatever keeps my crazy at a minimum, you know?

* One week until Spring Break.  I have an article I need to revise oh who am I kidding write over break, but I also plan to paint my front door and sew some curtains for a friend.  And then?  5 weeks until the semester is over.  I'm looking forward to finishing my first official year as a professor (9 month contract means summers off!  Woot!), but I'm also anxious about the end of the semester.  My timeline for this pregnancy is eerily similar to Eliza's, but 6 months off.  By which I mean, I had Eliza the week after classes ended in the fall of 2010, when I was 34 weeks pregnant.  When classes end this spring semester, I'll be 32 weeks along.  It's NOT the same, but it's still scary.  At least this time I'll have biweekly monitoring and (hopefully) lots of reassurance that the Deuce is doing exactly what he/she should be doing.

* I made David play this word game last night:
say:  eye
spell:  map
say:  ness

He did it twice.  TWICE.  Before he realized what he was saying and looked at me in disgust.  I laughed so hard I cried.  Then he told me that if I were a student at his school, I'd get in-school suspension for that kind of thing.  Which made me laugh more.  As my brother said, elementary school principals evidently don't appreciate anatomical hilarity.  English professors evidently do.

* I now have a shopping list specifically for deodorants that I want to try.  I've tried Toms before and didn't feel like it worked well for me, but I haven't specifically tried the lavender or powder scents, so maybe I'll give it another go.  I'm also very interested in the Adidas that so many of you recommended, so it's in my Amazon cart at the moment.  Oh interwebz, who knew I would have so much to say about my armpit sweat/stink?

* Dairy Queen is still offering buy one blizzard get one for 99 cents.  They are not paying me to say that.  It's more of a public service announcement.  You're welcome.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

You Make Me Smell Like a Natural Woman

So... about my armpits.  I'm paranoid about chemicals, metals, parabens, etc.  I know that some studies suggest there could be a link between aluminum-heavy antiperspirants and breast cancer.  I also know that I want to avoid anything chemically questionable while pregnant and (hopefully) breastfeeding.  I've been on a mission to find natural deodorant (meaning aluminum-free and paraben-free) that is also effective (meaning I don't stink or sweat through a lecture or a yoga class).

I'd gotten some good reports from a friend who made her own deodorant (thank you, Pinterest, for making pioneers out of all of us!).  But I haven't felt quite that adventurous.  I decided to take the lazy way out, and I ordered a deodorant (I believe I also saw it recommended on Pinterest) that appeared to have mostly the same ingredients as the Pinterest DIY deodorant, but was ready made and therefore would not require the use of my stove.  I bragged about it to David after I ordered it and I could not wait to try it out.

The first day I wore it, I appreciated the smooth application and the fresh scent.  The smell was kind of citrus-spicy, but in a good way, and after I applied it, I really didn't notice the scent at all.  I didn't get sweaty (of course, it was January) and it seemed like maybe I had hit the jackpot.  I breezed my way through a day of teaching without any armpit issues.

That evening, David and I were snuggling on the sofa.  We were getting ready to watch an episode of Justified and I was enjoying my cushy spot between David and Cooper.  David put his arms around me and gave me a squeeze and then said, in the very nicest way possible, "Are you wearing your natural deodorant?"

Let me tell you something, friends.  When your husband ASKS you if you're wearing your natural deodorant, it means YOU STINK.


Oh, wait.  If I stick my nose in my own armpits, I can confirm that I do, in fact, stink.  FINE.

I tried the natural deodorant a couple more times with no more success, so I gave up on it and went back to the delicious smelling Dove that I normally wear.  I chose chemical danger over body odor.  It's what civilized people do.

But THEN a few weeks ago, I went to the mall with my mom.  We went to the Body Shop so I could buy paraben-free moisturizer that doesn't cost $40 per ounce and my mom pointed out that they had aluminum-free deodorant on sale.  She told me that I should really think about using aluminum-free deodorant and I told her the humiliating story of David inquiring about the natural state of my armpits.

I was skeptical about dishing out money just so my husband can tell me I stink, so I asked the sales girl if it really worked.  She assured me that it did.  I told her my previous natural deodorant before, and then she recommended a particular scent that she felt was the best one.

So I gave it a try.  My mom and I each got the $5 roll-on because they were on sale (2 for $8) and the refills are just $3.


So far, so good!

DeoDry Dry-Effect Deodorant in Chilled and Breezy available at The Body Shop
I mean, you can't smell me from there, right?

To be perfectly honest, I do get the urge to reapply this deodorant, and I don't know if that's paranoia or genuine stickiness (probably a little of both).  I usually change clothes when I get home from work, and then I give my pits another swipe just to be safe.

I'm also not sure how it will hold up once it really gets warm and/or if I were to actually exert myself physically (beyond the effort required to sit/stand/bend at 24 weeks pregnant, I mean).  I feel like it lasts pretty well during my yoga class, but I'm doing basics these days, not Vinyasa or Bikram.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll also say that sometimes I don't shower on weekend mornings--I'll just wait to shower until we get ready to go somewhere in the evening (and if we don't go anywhere...  well then I'm saving water, right?).  I've adjusted that lazy schedule a bit because I do not find that this deodorant masks the smell of more-than-24-hours dirty the way aluminum deodorant will.  I mean, seriously, you can slap on Secret or Dove and go a whole weekend without a shower as long as your hair isn't greasy.  Those chemicals are amazing.  This stuff cannot compete with that kind of chemically fresh scent.  But as long as you shower on a daily basis, the chemical-free stuff can treat you right.

I've been using it for almost a month, and so far my husband has not asked me if my deodorant is "natural," so I call that a win.

Anyone else had any luck (or not) with natural deodorants or other bath/body products?  I'd love your recommendations.  I have to say I'm also pretty happy with the moisturizer I got from The Body Shop (from their Nutriganics line) so maybe I'll have to try some more of their stuff...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Here's Hoping

I still have a lot of mixed feelings about that word: happiness.

I think, more than anything else, finding some kind of joy/happiness/contentment/acceptance after loss is about an adjustment of expectations.  As I've written before, I'm not so good at adjusting my expectations.  And I know many of you feel the same.

It seems to me that happiness also requires optimism.  I really think it does.  It's not just about enjoying an isolated moment here and there--although that's where it started for me.  It's also about being able to look toward the future without wanting to vomit and then curl up in a ball and cry your whole life away.

I don't think you can have happiness unless you have some hope, unless you're brave enough to look forward and think that brighter days are on the horizon, even if they don't look the way you had once thought they would.  Hope felt out of reach for me, for a long time, because I was (am?) so reluctant to "settle" for what life had to be without Eliza.  

These days, I'm trying not to be afraid of hoping, the same way I'm trying not to be guilt-ridden about the happiness that gives life some flavor again.  

With that idea in mind, I introduce you to another addition to our hallway gallery (and my new favorite stationary--I ordered a set of note cards and then framed one of them):
The more I read it, the more I believe it to be true.

P.S. Thank you so much for your nice comments and e-mails about Eliza's portrait.  It means a lot to me to be able to share her portrait with you, and to show off what a gorgeous girl she was.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Baby Duck

You may have noticed that I don't have pictures of Eliza posted on my blog.  David and I decided to keep those private, and I am fiercely protective of them because she is so darling and yet she looks so... dead.

I look at those pictures and they make me cry.  Instead of thinking about what a beautiful baby we made, I think about how dead she looks, how dark her lips are, how loose her skin had become, how her nose kept bleeding.  They shred my heart to pieces, so I rarely look at them.

I think Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is an amazing service, but I'm not crazy about the way Eliza was posed--it looks to me like she's in a coffin, not a cradle.  Her poses seem unnatural to me.  My favorite ones of her are the ones that include David and me--she's cradled in our arms and she really looks like our baby.  But I hate those pictures because I'm sobbing and I have three chins and I'm wearing a hospital gown, and David's face has the most haunted, heartbreaking expression I've ever seen.  I can't look at those pictures without all those emotions flooding back.  It's just not something I could frame and display in my home.

So I had pretty much resigned myself to remember Eliza just the way she was in my mind, and keeping her photos stored in our fireproof safe in the closet.

Then my friend Caroline told me about an artist who drew a portrait of her first son, Cale, and she was kind enough to send me his photo and the drawing so I could see them side by side.  I was really touched that she would share Cale's picture with me, and I was so impressed by the beautiful way the artist had captured Cale just as he was, and also as he should have been.

This artist has a talent for seeing past the stillness to the baby who's there, and that's something that I have never quite been able to do when I look at Eliza's pictures.  My mom had told me that she thought Eliza looked like me when I was a baby, but I could never see it.

I wanted to be able to see Eliza that way, so I contacted Dana Klein through her website and inquired about having Eliza's portrait done.  It was an incredibly emotional process for me.  I cried when I read Caroline's e-mail, I cried when I wrote to Dana, I cried when I got a response from her.  I sobbed when I sent her the photos as an e-mail attachment--the idea of a stranger looking at her pictures just freaked me out.  But Dana was absolutely kind and compassionate.  (And, yes, she told me what a beautiful baby Eliza was.)

It was definitely worth the emotional roller coaster, because when Dana sent me her portrait, it just took my breath away.  It looked just like her, and also just as she should have looked.

I remembered her pouty lips--and she definitely got those from me--I have that same shadow under my bottom lip.  And her button nose does look like mine did as a baby.  I always thought newborns tend to look like their dads, but Eliza seems to be a mini-me, except through the eyes, which I think are David's. Seeing a portrait of her that brings out those qualities, instead of the gruesome reality of her death, makes me so happy and breaks my heart all over again.

I'm thrilled that we now have a portrait of Eliza that I will be hanging in our hallway.  I couldn't be prouder of our Baby Duck, and I'm so grateful to Dana for helping to bring forward the beauty that had been lost in our sadness.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

23 Weeks and a trip to Target

On a good day, I am hopeful.

On a bad day, I am waiting for the bottom to fall out of everything.

(And by "day," I also mean every other five minutes or so, give or take.)

I went to Target on Sunday--a huge, lovely store in Branson that is not crowded on Sunday mornings because it's in the Bible Belt and everybody is at church.  I spent an hour just browsing (ok, so I did a little buying, too).

When I walked in, the dollar section was fully of pastel colors and Easter decorations.  I was surprised to discover that it didn't hurt my heart to see them.  The same decorations that had felt like a cruel slap in the face just one year ago (last March I could not fathom celebrating new beginnings nor eternal life--I was deep in the trenches of grief and contemplating springtime and Easter was hard enough) suddenly looked...  kind of cute.  They weren't the grief trigger they had been last year.  I even found myself thinking that we might put out decorations for Easter and spring--next year.

Maybe we call this progress?

Then I walked by the little girls' Easter dresses.

And I thought that maybe I haven't made that much progress after all.

It hit me that this should be Eliza's second Easter, and I should be buying (or making??) a darling flowered (or polka-dotted) dress for a toddling fifteen-month-old.  I should be almost a year and a half ahead of where I am in this parenting thing.  I know that I have so much to look forward to, but the fact that I have missed out on so much already makes my heart crumple up inside itself.

I took a deep breath and I veered sharply to the right to pick out greeting cards and shampoo and some other necessities.  I held it together, but I really, really ached for Eliza, and for everything that our life should have been with her in it.

There's a quotation by Joseph Campbell that goes, "We must be willing to let go of the life we've planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us."  I know it's true, but this continues to be my biggest struggle.  You all know how much I loved my plan.  I wonder how I could ever stop wanting that other life.  The life that should have been ours.  The life that includes Eliza here with us.  There is definitely still a part of me that is holding on tight to the life I had planned.

But, in my hopeful moments, in the maternity section of Target, I know that I will also love the life that is waiting for us.

Just a little blurry self-portrait.   Horizontal stripes may make the Deuce appear larger than life.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Revisionary Thinking

* Thanks for the thoughtful response to Ms. B's advice.  Thanks especially to the dissenting voices, whose opinions were so politely (and persuasively) presented.  I agree that Ms. B's suggestion was a little passive-aggressive (now you know my secret weapon--I learned it from Victorian heroines!) and I really think that the best way to handle a situation depends on the family dynamic that's at work there (which we have only limited knowledge of, obviously).  The fact is that Ms. B's advice was perhaps too heavily colored by her own negative experiences with her in-laws.  Some people might respond very well to an honest expression of emotions (Ms. B just doesn't happen to have married in to that family).

Whatever Ms. B thinks, I agree with those of you who suggest that honesty might be the policy--perhaps just explaining to the SIL the major premise that there's such an important difference between the name being "up for grabs" because it's a family name and "up for grabs" because the first little girl to have that name is no longer here.  I keep thinking that it really comes back to whether the SIL is actually trying to understand how Name Withheld would feel about her using the name, or whether she plans to use it regardless and just doesn't want Name Withheld to cause a fuss.  Hopefully she would be receptive to an honest discussion.  If not, then only Name Withheld can know which course of action would be make her feel better and which would be mostly likely to achieve the preferred result (which, I think we all agree would be to have SIL use the name in honor of Name Withheld's baby, or not to use it at all).

* In order to help people understand what I'm going through, sometimes I'd like them to read stuff not written by me.  Just in case they think I'm crazy, I want them to know that my emotions and reactions are absolutely "normal," given the terrible situation I'm in.  So, speaking of in-laws, I sent both of these articles to certain people in David's family:

"The Heartbreak of Infant Loss" by Laura Schubert

"When You Lose a Baby" by Francesca at Small Bird Studio

Of course, that didn't stop one of them from comparing our grief to the loss of their eight-year-old DOG (you know I love dogs, but COME ON), and it didn't stop another member of his family from telling me we were "unhealthy" and "inappropriate" because we didn't participate in family holidays this year (WTF OMG, I know), and I never sent these links to the person who said it was "better" that Eliza died when she did because THERE IS ONLY SO MUCH EDUCATING I CAN DO.

I've opted NOT to put that whole bloody mess online because sometimes voicing emotions helps me get past them and sometimes it just gets me all worked up again (don't even get me started on how David almost got me murdered by the Craigslist killer!).  Given the specific variables in David's family's dynamics, I have chosen to either to let go of my rage and indignation (as you can imagine, this is an ongoing process) or roll my eyes and turn a coldly polite, passive-aggressive shoulder (because you know that's where Ms. B got the idea.)

And when it all feels like too much to be so profoundly disappointed by people who are supposed to be my family, I start counting all of the amazing, kind, supportive, warm, and delightful people in my life and I try to focus on those people instead.  I choose those people, to talk with, to share with, to confide in, to write to, to laugh with, and those are the people who matter most, whether or not we're related by blood, marriage, loss, love, or an appreciation for the CW's television programming (didn't you know that Ringer is one of my favorite guilty pleasures?).

* Yesterday I wore a pair of stretchy jeggings that weren't maternity.  I folded them down under the belly, checked out my butt in the mirror, and thought that I was good to go.  By the time I got to work, I realized that the super low elastic waist band was completely digging into my bladder and every shift in position from sitting to standing put me at dangerous risk for needing an adult diaper.  I haven't been so eager to get out of a pair of pants since my third date with David.

* We sold the plaid couches!  Our living room feels oddly bare and empty.  Our new couch is in place, but the chairs we ordered (the most delightfully squishy and comfortable glider/recliner imaginable, that are also acceptably attractive) are back-ordered until April.  In the meantime, we've moved some furniture around so there's a chair to sit in, but it looks weird.  The couches (and their slipcovers) went to a good home (not a Craigslist killer), but I have to confess that I felt strangely nostalgic about them on their last night.  They've seen us through a lot of good times and hellish times.  I never thought I'd miss the plaid, but it turns out I'm sentimental about ugly material things.  I am, however, pretty in love with our new sofa.  I think Cooper likes it even better than I do...

very comfy for snoozing
* We're heading to Branson this weekend to see David's grandma.  Her house was not damaged in the recent tornadoes that went through town (she actually lives outside of town, on the lake).  She did spend a few scary hours in the basement without power, but she and the homestead are fine.  And I'm sure the storm created plenty of yardwork that David and I can help her with this weekend!  I also wanted to say that (as several of you have so nicely inquired) she has been handling things pretty well since the death of his grandpa.  She has a neighbor/friend whose husband passed away just two days after Gene did, so the two of them have spending lots of time together.  Many of us know how comforting it is to just be with someone who understands and shares your pain, so I was glad she had someone nearby who is on the same timeline of loss that she is.  She and this friend, Janet, have decided to join the Y (so far they've taken yoga, Zumba, and an aerobics class for seniors called "Silver Sneakers").  She's also frequently going out to lunch with other widowed ladies and she's very active in church groups and Bible study.  Honestly, she's busier now than she has been for the last couple of years because Gene's health had slowed him down so much.  We know that none of that eases the pain of her loss, but we're glad that she has the health and energy to be so active, and relieved that she has so many good friends nearby.

* Last year on February 28th, I wrote about my own Grandpa V, and the birthday tradition we carry on in his memory--treating ourselves to ice cream!  This year was no different.  David and I raised our spoons in memory of Grandpa V. and then dug into the most delicious, summery ice cream treat ever--Haggan Das's Pineapple Coconut.  (It's divine.)  I'm seriously not a huge ice cream person (when I'm not pregnant, my cravings tend more toward the salty than the sweet), but the Deuce has given me a sweet tooth, just as Eliza did.  Grandpa would be proud!  Yesterday the weather was so nice that while I was running errands, I decided Grandpa would totally agree with my impulse to pull through the Dairy Queen drive through, so I treated myself to a mini-Blizzard (Butterfinger!).

Losing a child is SO different from losing a grandparent, but I hope it gets easier to remember and honor Eliza with love and simple but meaningful traditions as the years go by.  (And I like to imagine that Grandpa Vance managed to treat Eliza to something sweet on his birthday, too.)

* It's March 1st and it appears that spring is officially sprung, even here in the gray and brown Midwest.  Just this week, I spotted these two little pink buds on Eliza's tree in our yard.

Can you see the two little pink buds in the middle?
I took a picture, and then offered a prayer/wish/hope/plea that this spring continues to bring joyful things our way.  May the same be true for you and yours.