Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mormons, Babies, Unexpected Encounters, Good News, and a Plague Update

So Book of Mormon.  It was great.  You have to be careful with a show like this, because I think maybe it had gotten a little over-hyped for us.  It wasn't the funniest show I've ever seen (that was Avenue Q) and it wasn't the best show I've ever seen (Rent).  But it was still really great.  I enjoyed it hugely, I never caught myself wondering how much longer it would be, and I laughed out loud.  I liked that it wasn't afraid to highlight the absurdity of some Mormon beliefs, but it didn't do so in a mean-spirited way.  It was a fun night.  I do recommend the show, and I am still occasionally humming, "God loves Mormons and he wants some more!"

# # # 

Before the show we went to dinner with friends who are expecting a baby this summer.  They are not douche-bags about it, so it was fine.  There was one moment, though, when they asked me how many ultrasounds I had when I was pregnant.

With Eliza, not enough.  With Zuzu, more than necessary.

That was the first answer that popped into my head.  But of course I just said that I'd had three with Eliza (two scheduled, one because she didn't cooperate at the 20 week ultrasound so they didn't get a good picture of her heart--we went back four weeks later and everything was perfect) and many more with Zuzu.  I remember my Bradley class instructor making a huge deal about not having lots of ultrasounds and giving us an article to read about ultrasounds making mice brains all squiggly (or something like that).  I stressed out about the fact that I'd already had three.  (That class was really negative for so many reasons, unrelated to our loss.)  I had written off a lot of the fear-mongering that I felt happened in the class, but I couldn't shake all of it.  I was worried when it came to the many ultrasounds I had the second time around--I tearfully asked my ob about this article at one of my office visits, blubbering about mice brains.  To his credit, he did not roll his eyes, but really talked through my concerns with me and said that there were absolutely no risks that would outweigh the peace of mind and knowledge of the baby's development that we'd get from the ultrasounds.

Sometimes I really hate that Bradley class instructor for being a crazy freakish fear-mongering zealot. I should really write about sometime except I don't like giving her that much space in my head.  She made me so scared of medical intervention that it was really hard for me to reconcile my desire to have every moment of my second pregnancy monitored and my fear that I would end up killing my baby by trying to hard to save her.  Not to mention all the complicated guilty feelings for some how not having done "enough" for Eliza, even though we were all going above and beyond what's necessary for a normal, healthy pregnancy...  Ugh.

Speaking of Bradley classes--we were at Target last week and David recognized the dad from one of the other couples in our class.  It was the couple we liked the most, the ones we probably would have been friends with if Eliza had lived.  I can't even remember their names now.  David also bumped into them at the farmers' market over the summer.  He was by himself--I was home with the newborn Zuzu--and that couple was there, with their toddler in a stroller.  He said it felt like he got punched in the stomach when he saw them.  Living the life that was supposed to be ours.  They recognized him, but he turned and avoided them.  This time, at Target, we were checking out and the guy was walking by on his way in the door.  He did a double take and saw me and the baby with David.  I can just imagine him going home and mentioning us to his wife:  "Remember that couple from our Bradley class?  The ones whose baby died?"  Ugh. 

# # #

To change the subject entirely, Zuzu is doing better with food but ONLY if she is allowed to feed herself.  She seals her lips closed and turns her head away from a spoon, no matter how many airplane noises or "nom nom nom" sounds we make.  No matter what's on the spoon or what time of day it is.  If someone else is pushing food in her face, she is turning away.

But she will happily gnaw on a chunk of bread, sauteed red pepper, apple slices, and home-canned pears while I'm eating lunch or making dinner.  I'm re-reading Baby Led Weaning because it looks like that's the only way we're going to get this baby to eat something besides breastmilk.  So much for all of my frozen cubes of organic purees...  I guess they'll keep until she can really control a spoon.

I am too cool for purees.  And bibs, evidently.
I keep thinking that Zuzu is thisclose to crawling, but she's not there yet, which is kind of a relief.  I'd love to move before we have to baby-proof this house.  If she's on the wood floor, she will actually scooch on her butt in a sitting position, and she works hard to try to pull up to standing, but she just hasn't mastered the art of getting her knees under her yet.  One of these days she'll get her shoulders and her butt in the air at the same time!

# # # 

As I mentioned before, our house is now on the market.  So we're in the midst of the "Keep it tidy" and "OMFG Little Mac quit peeing on the f***ing floor" phase of selling our house (She has peed on the floor twice this week.  And it's only Wednesday.  On the easily-wipeable wood floor, but STILL.  WTF?).  It's a little bit exhausting, mostly because my husband is slightly psycho and does things like putting all of my pens and pencils that were corralled in a canister on the bar by the phone into a ziplock bag that he then put out IN THE GARAGE because GOD KNOWS that having a bunch of pens and pencils in a canister on the bar would be a TOTAL DEALBREAKER for a potential homebuyer.

I am taking it easy on him, though, because he is kicking ass in the job-getting department.  That's right, folks!  David got a head principal position at another elementary school in his district.  I am so proud of him.  I'm slightly nervous about his ridiculous work ethic and the long hours he's likely to put in next year, but I'm also really happy that his district recognizes how dedicated and talented he is.  
Celebrating Daddy's new job!  We found out on Valentine's Day but had to keep it a secret until the official board meeting--over a week later!
So now we just have to keep the house clean, keep the baby fed, keep Little Mac from peeing everywhere, keep Cooper from shedding everywhere (ha, I wish), and keep our fingers crossed that somebody falls in love with our little bungalow.

 # # #

Oh, and because some of you have been asking, my acute and contagious pink eye Eyeball Plague appears to be clearing up.  Just a bit swollen today and not nearly as red.  Kinda itchy though.  Gross.  David and Zuzu have both remained Plague-free, but in an unexpected turn of events, my mom came down with Eyeball Plague.  She visited her eye doctor based on my experience yesterday and got some Magic Drops, so hopefully she'll head off the worst of it.  I don't know WHERE I could have gotten infested with the plague (I have certainly not come in contact with any flea-toting rats) but I can tell you that Eyeball Plague Victim is not a good look for me.  My students probably think I've really let myself go...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Good Eyes, Bad Eye

I have a bacterial infection in my eye.

This is commonly referred to as "pink eye," but would more accurately be called, "red, swollen, pus-oozing eye."

Just trying to be accurate, people.

It started yesterday morning when I woke up.  My eye hurt--like throbbing--and it was bloodshot and gunky.  Gross me out.

I called my doctor (a family practitioner I met when interviewing pediatricians) and she squeezed in an appointment for me first thing so I could see her before work.  She prescribed me some drops and wrote me a note in case I wanted to skip work for the day.  I felt fine other than the throbbing, oozing eyeball issue, and the thought of rearranging my class schedule seemed more daunting than going in and talking about Lysistrata for a couple of hours.  So I picked up my eye drops and headed into work.  Sans eye make up.

On a normal day, I smear on a clear primer and tinted moisturizer and then swipe on on a little bit of eyeliner and mascara, and add some blush in the dreary winter months, before I go into to work.  It makes me feel more professional and polished when I'm standing in front of the classroom.  Since my sleep has been, um, let's just say unpredictable the last couple of months, I also think mascara and a little bit of under-eye concealer helps me look awake.  So I feel pretty un-cute with no make up on.

I went to the doctor, the pharmacy, and then to work feeling decidedly un-cute.  I'd curled my hair to compensate, but that only helped when I was wearing sunglasses.

I taught my two lit classes and then realized I actually wasn't feeling great.  At all.  Eye still throbbing and oozing (GROSS).  So I canceled my afternoon composition class and headed home early.  I moaned and groaned to David about it, who was really sympathetic on the phone but wouldn't come near me when he got home, as though I was so contagious that he was going to get pink eye just by looking at me.  I went to bed early, feeling very sorry for myself.

This morning I woke up with my eye sealed shut with gunky grody eye goop (that's the medical term for it).  It took the use of a warm wash cloth just to be able to open my eye, and the swelling had actually gotten worse instead of better.  I looked like someone had punched me in the eye except without the purple bruise.  Not cute.  I was also hoping it would feel better than it did.

In the sort of coincidence that my students would call "ironic" but is actually not ironic, just coincidental, Zuzu had an eye appointment scheduled with the optometrist for this afternoon.

It is part of the InfantSEE program, which provides a free eye exam to any baby under a year of age.  I just went to the website, plugged in my zip code, and called a doctor's office near my house.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but basically Zuzu charmed the entire office staff while I filled out a simple form, and then we went back for a quick examination.  The doctor talked me through everything, and I held Zuzu on my lap the whole time.  Basically, he made sure her eyes were both tracking a Big Bird figurine, he shined lights in her eyes to examine her pupils and retinas, he checked to make sure she didn't have congenital cataracts, and that both eyes were being used equally.  He was able to determine that she is slightly far-sighted, which is developmentally normal for babies of this age.  He was very pleased with her eyes and I was pleased that she was very cooperative (not that any of it was hard).  The trickiest part was at the very end when I had to stand up and hold her facing over my shoulder, keeping her head close to my neck and shoulder so he could shine a bright light in her eye.  She didn't love this part, but she didn't cry.

So Zuzu got a clean bill of eye health and instructions to come back when she's three years old or if I suspect any problems between now and then.

Then the doctor looked at me and said, "So what's up with your eye?"

I explained that I had conjunctivitis and that I'd already seen my family practitioner to get eye drops.  He muttered, slightly under his breath, but also so I could hear him perfectly, "When you have an eye infection, you should see an eye doctor."

(Really?  For PINK EYE?)

Anyway, he told me he had a few minutes before his next appointment, so he would take a look for me, which was really nice considering I was a new patient.  I was actually really glad because my eye was still feeling pretty horrible.

He asked me when my last eye exam was and I said I had no idea. Possibly 1998?

The doctor managed to quietly guffaw and tsk-tsk me at the same time.

(But come on!  I don't wear glasses or contacts and I have never had vision issues or eye issues UNTIL YESTERDAY!)

In spite of his exasperation with my lack of appropriate eye healthcare, he was actually really nice.  He asked me what drops my doctor had prescribed and I said I wasn't sure but I thought maybe sulfate, if that sounded right to him.

He didn't like this answer either (!) and said that medical doctors continue to prescribe it but eye doctors haven't for at least a decade.  He asked if I was still breastfeeding (The small human grunting and trying to suck on my boob through my shirt might have been a clue.)  and then said he'd get me some drops that are safe for the baby but these wouldn't be cheap.  And then he recommended that I schedule a real appointment in two weeks for a follow-up and a thorough eye exam.

When I went to check out, I had to fill out the new patient paperwork for myself, plus dig out my wallet and insurance card, which was not easy with the baby in one arm.  The receptionist offered to hold her for me, so Zuzu sat happily on her lap and played while I scribbled down my name and insurance information.  Then I heard a ripping noise and saw that Zuzu had grabbed a piece of paper that was partially taped to the desk and managed to rip it in half.  Excellent!  The receptionist didn't bat an eye and said it was no big deal, she'd just print another schedule.  So Zuzu flapped that piece of paper around, very pleased to be entertaining herself and the other ladies in the office, while I frantically finished up everything.

I walked my prescription across the parking lot to the grocery store pharmacy so I wouldn't have to make another stop because it was almost nap time.  Sure enough, as soon as I sat down to wait, Zuzu got serious about wanting to eat.  So I nursed her in the pharmacy waiting area, which totally grossed me out because it seemed like possibly the germiest place on the face of the earth besides a public bathroom.  Desperate times...

Then my "not cheap" eye drops turned out to be $75!  What the what?  Fortunately it appears to be Magical Miracle Cure in a jar because they soothed my eye in a way that the others didn't even come close to doing.  One drop and it already feels ten times better.

Still looks like hell, though.

So that is the eye health update here.  Any of you had pink eye?  Did you use the old-fashioned Trimethoprim Sulfate solution?  Did you see an eye doctor instead of your regular doctor?  Anyone else take advantage of the InfantSEE program?  I only found out about it from a friend, and I was surprised my pediatrician hadn't recommended it.

I'm relieved that Zuzu's eyes are perfectly healthy, but I also find little kids in glasses to be utterly adorable.  I've actually been wanting to get some non-prescription glasses to wear just for fun--you know, add to my professional credibility in the classroom. Maybe I could get non-prescription frames to accessorize Zuzu as well...  Okay, I know that's ridiculous.  I'm just saying she would look really cute.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Grammy's Here!

And Zuzu is just a little excited about it.

(My dad is kind of jealous because he's on a mission trip to Mexico to build houses, so he's doing good things but missing the cuteness around here.)

Tonight David and I are going out (!) on a real-life date with another couple (Edited to clarify:  It's a double date.  We are not dating another couple.).  We're getting dressed up and going to dinner near our house, and then to the Fabulous Fox Theatre to see The Book of Mormon.

We are just a little excited about it.

In other news...

We got a big snow on Thursday.  The weather forecast was bad enough that David's school canceled the night before, and my university canceled classes in the morning, before the snow even started.  Since the storm wasn't supposed to hit until around lunchtime, David went on into work and I decided to drop Zuzu at daycare for a couple of hours so I could run up to another university's library and finish up a few things.  I was working away at my favorite table in the basement when a friend texted me and said that things were really getting slick outside.

It was already 11:30am, so I gathered up my stuff and headed out to pick up the baby and go home.  Slow mixed with sleet was falling hard and fast, and I called David from the daycare parking lot and told him he needed to leave work NOW and be prepared for it to take him two hours to get home.

David, of course, thought I was exaggerating how bad the roads were, and proceeded to wait an hour before he left.

It took him two hours and fifteen minutes to get home.

We decided this was an excellent lesson in Why You Should Always Listen To Your Wife.

He got home a few minutes after our realtor arrived to look over the house and talk about a selling price (!).

Did you know that 80% of people don't interview more than one realtor when looking to sell or buy a home?  I guess that's understandable because we got loads of referrals from people, so if you trust a recommendation from a friend, that makes things easier.  But we still wanted to talk with a couple different realtors to see how their marketing plans differed and get some different opinions on how they would price our home to sell quickly.  So we were in the 20% of people who talk to more than one agent.

We actually really liked both of the realtors we talked with, and I think either one would have done an excellent job in helping to sell our house.  In the end, we decided to go with someone whose office is very close by and who has sold many houses in our particular area.  It's a local realty company rather than a nationwide one, and I think there are pros and cons to each, but I'm hoping that our choice serves us well.

I guess it's for real now...

Looking to buy an adorable two-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow in the city?  E-mail me!

This is what it looks like when there's not snow on the ground. And yes--we will be planting a saucer magnolia tree at our new house, wherever that is.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

Grief Group, Again

I was running late, naturally.

When I was in graduate school, every class that was scheduled to start on the hour actually started at seven minutes after the hour.

This wasn't in my head.  This was a real rule on campus.

I loved it because it fit so perfectly with my general mode of operating.  I need to be somewhere at one o'clock?  Great!  I'll get there at 1:07.  No problem.

So I jog through the parking garage and speedwalk through the lobby, past the escalators, down the long hallway into the cafeteria.  There's a small room off the cafeteria.  The doors are closed.  There's a little sign taped to the door that reads "Heartprints."

I open the door slowly, cautiously, holding my breath as though that will make my entrance less intrusive.  I don't want to cause a disruption if introductions have already started.

My eyes widen as I peek my head through the door.  The room is full.  There are more people there than I've ever seen in this room before.  It makes my stomach sink.

Introductions haven't started yet, and there happens to be one open seat.  I slide in next to a girl who looks familiar and another girl I know I haven't met before.  I exhale and reach in my purse to silence my phone.  Someone slides me a nametag and I scrawl my name across it and stick it on my shirt.  I know the routine, although it's been a while.

It's the girl next to me who starts, and when she finishes, it's my turn.  We were asked to be brief, and so this is what I say:

My name is Brooke.  My husband and I lost our first daughter, Eliza, two years ago in December.  I was thirty-four weeks pregnant.  I had a normal and healthy pregnancy but a few weeks before our due date, I went suddenly into labor.  I didn't fully realize what was happening until I got to the hospital and they told me that she didn't have a heartbeat.  We have no explanation for what happened, so we are those people without answers.

Here's what I didn't have to say:

I miss her.  I'm here because I miss her and she matters and the birth of her little sister has been the greatest joy of my life but she doesn't fill in for Eliza's absence.  I love her so much and I don't know who she would be today and that's why two year old girls break my heart.  I cried every day for months and months, and I panicked about getting pregnant again.  People who had the best of intentions said things to me that caused me a great deal of additional pain.  People I thought we could count on disappointed me in profound ways.  Other people I barely knew stepped up and became great friends. Through the magic of the internet, I made a new circle of friends who saved my life and they are wonderful, but the price I paid to meet them is far too great.   I had to become someone new and I miss my old life and the old me, and I grieve those losses as well.  The new me is better than the old me in some ways and worse than the old me in other ways.  I am changed because I love her and I am changed because I lost her and I still don't know how to make sense of this.  I can't believe this is my life, even though I'm living it everyday and functioning pretty close to normal these days.  It's been over two years and it doesn't hurt to breathe anymore, but I miss her.

I don't have to speak those truths because everyone in the room already knows.  They know because my life--this life I can't believe is mine--it's their life, too.

We're brought together, in the basement of a hospital, in a windowless room that attaches to the cafeteria, by circumstances beyond our control, by grief we'd never imagined we could survive.  Some of us have to fight the instinct to stay home, to curl up in a tiny ball on the couch, to protect our raw and ravaged hearts, and to be brave enough to show up and speak our truths and--more difficult still--listen while other people speak theirs.

We have to sit through stories of babies who were tangled in their umbilical cords, babies whose chromosomal make up was incompatible with life, babies whose mothers had health issues that forced pregnancies to end to soon, babies whose deaths cannot be explained.  We have to sit through these stories because they are our stories.

I cry through all of the stories as we work our way around the table.  It takes a while.  Some people on the far end who are sitting on my side of the table are so far away I can't even see them.  Some people tell their stories with breaking, wavering voices.  Other people have a more practiced recitation.  This was the first time I gave my introduction without crying during it, but I make up for it by crying through everyone else's.  My kleenex gets soggy and I can't stop playing with it, twisting it and rolling little pieces between my fingers.

Some people are true veterans at this.  One couple has been coming regularly for almost five years; they were veterans when I was a newbie.  Another couple is just one week out from the death of their son.  They still look stunned.  The rest of us just look heartbroken.

People talk about how far they've come in the months or years since their loss.  People talk about how hard it is to go back to work--how the wrong boss can make a difficult transition absolutely miserable or even impossible.  People talk about their in-laws.  People talk about their living children, older siblings who don't fully understand their parents' grief but miss their baby brothers or sisters.  People talk about how they cope, about how exhausting and frustrating and heartbreaking the day to day business of life feels when the baby who belongs in your arms is buried in the ground.  I listen to the concerns of those who are just weeks or months out from their grief, and it's like hearing my own experience played back to me.  It's not easy to know that anyone else, even a total stranger, is enduring that kind of pain.  It's weird to think of myself as a veteran, as a survivor, as someone who can speak from the "other side," even as we all know there is never a complete recovery.

I don't attend these meetings regularly.  I had a hard time getting myself there in the early months because I didn't want to belong to that group.  I noticed that when I did work up the nerve to go, I felt better after, but that didn't make it any easier (kind of like exercise...).  I stayed home once my second pregnancy was visible.  This is the first time I've been back since Zuzu was born, mostly because I don't like leaving her after a long day of work.  But I wanted to go this night.  David asked me why I wanted to go, and I just said that I remember going in those early days and desperately needing to hear from someone who was further out from their grief, to hear from someone who lived it that I was going to be okay, somehow, someday.  I wanted to be able to be that person for someone else.

And I wanted to be able to talk about Eliza and to cry in front of people who would really understand.

(Even though there's still a part of me who hates crying in front of anyone, and who feels awkward talking about Eliza with a bunch of strangers.)

I do talk about Eliza there.  I'm self-conscious at first, and my heart pounds before I speak up.  But I do speak up. I talk about how long it took to feel like myself again, to feel comfortable in my own head.  I talk about some of the terrible things people said.  I talk about how much it hurts to lose not just my baby, but her entire life.  I hear myself promising a girl with curly black hair and tear-streaked cheeks that it will get easier, that the baseline of operating won't be so miserable forever.  I tell her that life will sparkle again, and superficial pleasures will return.

We commiserate about the way everyone we know is having babies so close in age to the babies who are no longer here.  Other people note that it's normal and fine not to be able to attend baby showers, to need to avoid pregnant people and new babies.  I say that some friendships can withstand that break, can come back from the distance needed to survive such a loss--I'm living proof of this.

I add that I still mourn this other, smaller loss, too--that I don't just miss Eliza, but the person I would have been if she had lived.  The person who would have hosted a baby shower for my best friend instead of mailing a check to someone else as my contribution. I miss being the person who smiled at babies instead of turning away.  I miss being the person who chatted excitedly about pregnancy instead of the person who changes the subject.  I miss being lighthearted and happy and I grieve for that loss as well as the loss of my baby.

Do you know how much it helps to see a roomful of people who are nodding as I say these things?

The meeting closes, and all of a sudden, I kind of want to run away.  That feeling is back:  I don't want to belong here, with these grieving parents and their hollow eyes.

I want to run home to my living, breathing, laughing baby.  I have an impulse to escape the sadness and affirm the things that are good in my life.

But even stronger than that impulse is my desire to stick around for a few minutes, to have more personal conversations, to talk with the women on either side of me.  One is missing her son, Hunter.  The other is six weeks out from the loss of her daughter, Norah.  Our conversation meanders effortlessly from serious to sarcastic.  We find ourselves joking and laughing, and it's a relief to talk with people who understand that humor can be a survival mechanism, that there's a fine line between this laughter and our tears.

I also greet friends I already know, and I chat with the facilitator, who asks to see pictures of Zuzu (of course I oblige).

I can't believe I can do this.  I can't believe I'm comfortable here.  I can't believe I am at a grief support group.  I can't believe this is my life.

I can't believe that I'm (mostly) okay.

But I guess I am.  And I guess needed to show up and say, It's been over two years and most of the time it doesn't hurt to breathe anymore. But I miss her.

I expect I'll need to say that again and again.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Either/Or vs. Both/And

Here's something that I haven't written about at all:

If we hadn't lost Eliza, Zuzu wouldn't be here.

I've never said it out loud.  I don't really like to let myself think it, although it's definitely ticked through my consciousness on more than one occasion.

The thing is, they are far enough apart that they could both be sisters.  And that lends itself its own special ache.  Many of my friends have kids who are 18 months apart--or less.  Eliza and Zuzu would have been about 18 months apart, which is totally possible, whether or not we would have been "trying" again.  

We would not have been trying again because we wanted our kids to be two and a half to three years apart.  You know, Plan A.

But maybe it could have been a happy accident?  An unexpected surprise?

Because maybe my hormones wouldn't have been out of whack because I wouldn't have been drowning in grief and anxiety?  And I would have been ovulating without help?  (Because I did technically have some medical assistance in getting pregnant with Zuzu.)

If I imagine my life with now-two-year-old Eliza, I would be pregnant with her sibling right about now.  I always thought she'd have a little brother (I guess because I had a little brother?  So that was easy for me to imagine?).  But even when I indulge in a fantasy of life where Eliza is here, it never feels possible for her to be here with Zuzu.  

As much as I just want to wish for both my kids, there is a part of me that is certain if we had Eliza here with us, we wouldn't have THIS baby.  We wouldn't have delightful and incorrigible Zuzu.

* * * 

The whole time I was pregnant, I loved the Deuce.  But I still would have traded being pregnant again (ever) for getting Eliza back.

These are impossible choices--the ones we make up and imagine just to torture ourselves--but I do wonder... If given the opportunity, could I knowingly give up Zuzu for a life with Eliza, a life without grief?

One look at this face... and you've got to know that my answer is a resounding no.  I would have to have them both.

The thing is, I obviously didn't choose to have Zuzu instead of Eliza, but sometimes it feels like I had to give up Eliza in order to get Zuzu.  And that just sucks.

I don't like to think about that because it feels so unfair and horrible.

There's a reason Meryl Streep won an Oscar for Sophie's Choice.  Because it's an impossible choice.  Because of course your babies aren't interchangeable.  Because the most horrific torture you could inflict on someone else is making her choose between her children.  

The whole point of it hurting so much to imagine these impossible trade-offs is that I can't replace one with the other because I know the other would have been so different, so dreamy and funny and wild in her own special way.

And for the rest of my life, it's my fate to marvel at Zuzu and to wonder about Eliza and who she would have been.

That part is always going to be sad, but overall, this is a life I can live with.  Hell, it's a life I'm lucky to have!  Zuzu is pretty damn marvelous, after all.

It's just not anywhere close to the life I had once thought was mine, and under all the grief and all the lessons and all the gifts and all the appreciation and all the love, I'm still really fucking pissed off that I got shortchanged when so many people didn't, that I had to make an trade and accept an either/or when I SHOULD have gotten a both/and.

* * * 

The truth is that if we hadn't lost Eliza, we wouldn't have Zuzu.

But the opposite is also true:  If we hadn't had Eliza, we wouldn't have Zuzu.

It's just that we still want them both.  Eliza's loss will never be okay or acceptable or anything but the greatest tragedy of my life.

Even so, in the moments when I can get beyond my sadness, I can see how lucky we are to have loved them both.

Eliza taught me how to love a baby I didn't get to keep.  And it's precisely because of her and how much we loved her that we wanted to have another baby.

And this one I hope to hold on to as long as possible.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

If you are feeling a little lonely this Valentine's day...

I'd like to recommend having a long talk with an understanding friend...

Finding a good book to read...

And passionately kissing the first cute guy you see.  The more tongue the better.

Choose any two of the three recommendations above and you are practically guaranteed to have a happy Valentine's Day.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sleep (Or Lack Therof), Cuteness, and Other Things

I've started half a dozen blog posts this week and now it's Thursday and only one was posted and that was just photos.

Except I just realized it's actually Wednesday, not Thursday.

So anyway.  This is jumbled together and mildly incoherent, but there are a few nuggets of wisdom slightly insane ramblings I want to put out there.  So here you go:

I saw yesterday that if you donate $250 or more to Return to Zero, they will add you to the film's credits with a thank you or an "In memory of..."  Wouldn't that be awesome?  I don't have an extra $250 lying around right now, but if I did!  It would be pretty amazing to see "In memory of Eliza Taylor Duckworth" scrolling up the screen at the end of the movie.

# # #

I was at Target yesterday and two things happened:

(1) Zuzu road in the cart, sitting up like a big grown up girl, and got about a million compliments for just being adorable.  The checkout lady said she should be on television, and then added that she doesn't say that about every baby.  hashtag shamelessbragging.

(2) I discovered the Radish scent of Mrs. Meyers soaps and cleaners and fell IN LOVE with it.  You guys, I don't know what radishes smell like, but this is amazing.  It smells like grass and springtime and clean dirt and fresh salad without dressing.  It is delicious.  Get you some.

# # #

Zuzu slept like hell Sunday and Monday nights.  I was actually in tears Monday night when she started crying at 11:30 because WTF?  WHY ISN'T SHE SLEEPING?  Why did she sleep better at two months old than she does at seven months old?  Why does she think she has to eat every three hours all night long?  Why does she have to not just cry but SCREAM like that?  Like a banshee.  Or a crazed primate.  Why doesn't she just try waterboarding on top of sleep deprivation?

And of course there's always the twinge of baby-loss guilt in the back of my mind, saying in her snarky little Pollyanna tone, At least you HAVE a baby waking you up four times a night!  So yeah, not complaining. Too loudly anyway.

The thing about Zuzu is that she absolutely insists on eating before she goes back to sleep.  There is no popping in the pacifier and turning on the magical crib aquarium.  Oh no!  That worked for a while, but no more!  It is all boob and nothing but the boob!  I don't know what kind of instrument you use to measure decibels because my brain is not functioning so well after three nights of ridiculously spotty sleep, but I would like to have one so I could measure how loudly this child can scream.  David gets offended sometimes at how she will lunge away from his arms and reach for me.  It would be endearing if (1) she wasn't just using me for my boobs and (2) I wasn't so freaking tired my eyelids feel like sandpaper.

Last night she slept relatively well, waking up once at 11:30 (bah!) and not again until almost 5 (still two hours earlier than I would like!).  But she has me too well trained!  I was up at 2am and couldn't get back to sleep until after 3.  I woke up again at 4 and saw David had moved to the living room to watch TV because he wasn't sleeping either.  I can't really remember what 8 hours straight feels like since I've been getting up to pee and/or nurse a baby for the past sixteen months.  I wonder sometimes if I will ever sleep for eight hours in a row again?  I have to say, after all we've been through, I appreciate having a reason to get up in the middle of the night (an adorable reason, actually, and no, I'm not talking about my bladder), but I hope to someday appreciate what it feels like to sleep through the night without interruption.  Maybe in like twenty years or so?

# # #

We were back at the pediatrician's office on Monday for a flu shot.  I popped the pacifier in her mouth and Zuzu didn't even CRY.  She is so much braver than her mommy.  The nurse does the injecting, but the doctor stopped in to say hello and Zuzu actually gave him one of her big charming smiles.  (She does this thing where she beams at people who say hi to her, but then she coyly ducks her head into my shoulder and continues to grin at them while looking out the corner of her eye.  It is basically THE CUTEST THING EVER.)  The doctor said, "She's a happy baby!" and I said, "Yes she is."  Then he said, "And you're a happy mom.  That's a good combination: happy mom, happy baby."

I would replay that conversation in my head in the wee hours of the following morning as I was deliriously tired and Zuzu was anything but happy.  Still, it was a nice moment, to know that our happiness is visible to other people when I thought that I would radiate nothing but sadness for so long.

# # #

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and a home-with-Zuzu day, so although I'll have to do a little bit of work, we plan to drive out to David's work to have a Valentine lunch with him and then maybe do a little shopping near his school.  Our romantic evening plans include Qdoba take out for dinner (I've been looking forward to this for WEEKS!) and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves on the DVR.  I haven't ever seen it all the way through but it has one of the most romantic songs ever:  Bryan Adams's "Everything I Do [I Do It For You]," which at one time I thought I would have sung at my wedding (I didn't, but I kind of wish I would have).  For these reasons, it is now our Valentine Date Night Movie.

The chances of both of us managing to stay awake long enough to get through it?  Well, we'll see how well we sleep tonight.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Snow [Bunny] Bear

A couple of weeks ago, it snowed.

We haven't seen much snow this winter, so it was kind of a big deal.

And by "big deal," I mean "photo opportunity."

We bundled up the baby and stuck her in a snow drift and told her to smile.


Ok, it's kind of funny.

I like being cute in the snow!

dog, meet polar bear

Again, WTF?
It's a marshmallow world in the winter!
Zuzu's first snowfall.  Successfully documented for posterity.

In other news...  Sarah from Land of Abe has published a piece about stillbirth on the Motherlode (NYTimes blog).  The article is great, and the comments are full of heartache and hope.  Check it out here.

Zuzu was up four times during the night last night.  See caption #1 for how I feel about that.  Here's hoping tonight goes better.  She is a bit congested, but MERCY child.  Being congested does not really mean you need a boob four times in the middle of the night.  Except, of course, that is EXACTLY what it meant last night.  It's 9 o'clock and I'm heading to bed, and it looks like David is going to beat me there.  Our life, it is thrilling.

Friday, February 8, 2013

It Flies.

The week felt more hectic than usual because David was really wrapped up in some work stuff, so he was putting in long hours and doing work from home.  I had to go in on Thursday afternoon for a couple of meetings even though I'm usually only on campus MWF.  And I am truly loving that schedule:  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I'm so excited about being home with Zuzu the next day and--to be perfectly honest--by the end of the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I'm looking forward to teaching college students!

I had a conversation with a friend last night about childcare that made me all the more aware that the biggest reason I'm able to enjoy my job so much is because I feel so good about Zuzu's daycare.  It is a crappy, crappy thing to be anxious about what's going on with your kid while you're at work, and I'm just so grateful that I feel comfortable with the place where she spends several hours a week.

The only problematic thing about my schedule is that most of the time it kind of feels like I'm cramming a full-time job into three days a week.  (Probably because I am.)

My days on campus are crazier than they've ever been.  Back in the day, I spent a lot of my office hours "working" on my computer.  By which I mean blogging, reading blogs, scrolling through Pinterest, and checking my e-mail.  Oh, and sometimes I would plan lessons, write lectures, and do work-stuff.

I'm currently serving on a committee that is taking up a lot of my time with various meetings.  Since I'm only on campus three days a week, those meetings take up a good chunk of my day.  Plus I'm teaching THREE classes on MWF, which is a LOT for one day. Like sometimes my voice is tired of talking by the end of the day and I hardly ever get tired of talking (haha, but seriously, it's true.  Ask David.)  Plus I have to pump twice a day (ugh--least favorite part of work) and that takes 15-20 minutes by the time it's all said and done.  And I'm usually multi-tasking while I do it (checking e-mail or reading the Iliad).  I have an hour for lunch, but if I pump during that time, the hour becomes forty minutes and by the time I walk to the dining hall and eat and get back to my office, it's time for my last class of the day.  After that class, I have another schedule hour of office hours, which is barely enough time for me to respond to my work e-mails, plan what I'm doing in the next class, make any necessary photocopies, and pump again before I head home.

It is a non-stop day, and it wears me out.  Then I pick up Zuzu, go home to wash bottles and pump parts and start diaper laundry, do a little play-on-the-floor time with Zuzu, and (ugh) now I'm doing a twenty-minute workout each night. More about that in a minute.

Occasionally I have actual stuff to do in the evenings--dinner with friends, a La Leche meeting, etc.--which is great, but all of this means that my DVR is full of unwatched shows and I don't have any time to click around on the internet to my heart's content.

I'm not complaining, though.  I'm actually relishing this time because it feels so perfectly balanced for me at the moment.  When I was home with Zuzu, the last month I started feeling antsy.  It was like I knew our time was almost up so I couldn't get into a staying-at-home zone, but I wasn't ready to go back to work full time either.  This sort-of-part-time thing (I say sort of because teaching three classes is not really part time--those days are so full and if I hadn't taught the classes before, which saves me tons of prep time, I'd be totally overwhelmed) is working out really well for me.  It's definitely worth it, even if it's a little exhausting.  Last night I felt so wiped out and stressed out and aggravated that the major source of my stress is that committee I volunteered to be part of.  Fortunately it was nothing that dinner with friends and a glass of wine couldn't cure.

Adding both to my exhaustion and my sense of accomplishment is that I'm following Brandy's masochistic lead and I'm now five days in to the 30 Day Shred.  Oh, you guys.  I hate it.  But it only takes 20 minutes. And I'm determined to do it for 30 days.  Every time I do it, I tell myself, "You only have to do this X more times."  I really don't have much of a desire to work out right now, but I am vain enough that the complete lack of definition in my arms is kind of bugging me.  Also there are some tight-fitting pants that I would like to be not-so-tight-fitting.  I'm all about expanding the wardrobe options.  So we'll see where I am in 25 more days.  (Answer:  Shredded!)

I have realized that I am usually in a better mood after I work out, which reminds me of my second year of graduate school when I went to one of the therapists in the university health center, convinced that I needed antidepressants because life was bleak and also it seemed like everyone I knew was taking them (All the cool kids, that is.  It seems existential crises are rampant in English graduate programs.).  Instead, the therapist told me that I needed to start exercising.  Blah blah blah, endorphines.  I was annoyed by that advice, and I was even MORE annoyed when it worked.  And it continues to work.  I wish that I could get happy energy and long lasting endorphines from something more fun than exercise.  Like reading novels.  Or eating vanilla Joe-Joes.  Or browsing home decor and DIY blogs.

I have decided that there is something to the idea of committing to an exercise regime for 30 days.  It's short enough that I don't get bored but long enough to see some results.  So I think I'm going to start making 30 day plans for working out, and switch it up at the end of each month.  Great idea, right?  My next adventure just might include ariel fitness classes!  I had dinner earlier this week with a friend of mine who took an ariel fitness class and she said it was super fun and a fabulous arm workout.  I want to swing from a trapeze with the greatest of ease!  Seriously, doesn't that sound fun?

In other news, I got an e-mail today about a Kickstarter project that I am backing--an independent film.  Yes, that's right.  I'm a financial investor in an independent film called Return to Zero.  Doesn't that make me sound chic and interesting and also like I could be famous?

In reality, I just found out about it from my friend Caroline (who is chic and interesting) and then I donated online.  Kickstarter is this website where people working on projects in need of funds can sign on and explain their purpose and basically beg for financial backing.  Anyone can donate any sum, and if they reach the goal for fundraising, they can go ahead with their project (and the investors usually get a little something in return--like I would get a free download of the film and the soundtrack).  If they don't make enough money to move forward, then I get my money back. (Sad face.)

The reason I donated is because the movie is about...  a couple who has a stillborn baby.  I know.  Not exactly a box office blow out.  (Hence the need for funding.)  Grief movies are not popular (I haven't even seen Through the Rabbit Hole yet, although still I want to).  As difficult as I think it will be for me to see this movie, I really want the opportunity to watch it.  As one of the articles states, it's "a beautiful movie about terrible things."  The film has actually already been made (starring Minnie Driver--and who didn't love her in Circle of Friends?  I also liked her in Good Will Hunting, actually.) but it needs money to go into post-production.  Anyway, if you're interested, you can also read more about the film here.  And then you can pony up some cash here and wait to see if they make their goal.  And you can spread the word by posting about it on your myface page, those of you who are emotionally capable of handling social media (I still am not).

I ordered prints of the six month photos!  I loved photo 4 (the clear winner) but in the end, I ignored the majority and it only made the 5x7 cut (sorry those of you who voted for #4!  I still appreciate your opinions!).  I ended up getting two large prints--#2 and #7.  I love Zuzu's smiling face, but to me, #4 didn't look like her super-happy smile, so I went with the sweet face and the funny face.  Now I just have to get them framed and up on the walls...

Anyone want baby update?  Well, girlfriend thinks she's pretty hot stuff now because she likes to stand up ALL BY HERSELF.

Don't get too excited--she can't pull herself into a standing position (Although she tries and grunts and gets her butt about two inches off the ground.  So much effort with so little to show for it... kind of like me and the 30 Day Shred).  So I have to stand her up, and she's still totally wobbly and falls over.  But LOOK AT HER!

So proud of herself.
She's getting so big.

The days and weeks are really flying by.  In my previous post about photo organizing, I don't think I mention ANOTHER way I'm documenting our daily life (because the blog and a million photos are clearly not enough self-gratification for my ravenous ego).  But seriously, I want a quick way to account for the blur of days that slip by far too quickly and easily.  She's seven months old and fast on her way to eight and where has the time gone?  The boring day to day stuff becomes hard to remember, and I want to be able to look back at it and capture just a little bit of what's "normal" at the moment, because a year from now I know that life will be radically different.

So I'm writing in this:

image from here
I ordered it from Amazon and it's basically a 5 year diary.  365 pages, with 5 entries on each page.  You fill in the year, and write a sentence or two.  I try to do it each night after I put Zuzu to bed, but yeah, I've totally cheated and gone back to fill in three or four days at once.  Still, it's amazing what I have ALREADY forgotten that happened just a couple of months ago.  It's not thrilling stuff, and most of it is baby-centered since I imagine giving it to Zuzu someday.  Some days just say, "Man, I love this baby."  And there are a few days (like this last Tuesday) that say, "I really miss Eliza today."  But most of it is just the mundane occurrences that I think will be fun to look back on someday--compliments from fellow Target shoppers on the cuteness of my baby, taking David's grandma out to dinner for her birthday when Zuzu slept through dinner and woke up to the waitstaff singing, Zuzu's distaste for lovingly-prepared organic purees, and the diaper blow out that made me late for work last week.  And, the first time she stood up by herself (well, with the help of the laundry basket)!

Enough documenting how I'm documenting what I'm documenting.  This is getting a little too meta for Friday afternoon...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Photo Bomb

One of my resolutions for this year is to organize photos and get a system going so that I can stay on top of it.

I've done okay so far.  (By "so far," I mean since Zuzu was born.  We kind of stopped taking photos all together for most of 2011 so there wasn't much to organize there...).  Now iPhoto does a lot of the organizing on its own, but there's still the matter of deciding what to print, what to put in albums, and what to frame.  We take snapshots almost every day and it can feel a little overwhelming.

Overwhelmingly cute, that is.
Here are some of the ways I'm organizing photos, and some of the things I'm considering...

I love me some Instagram, and some of my favorite pictures of Zuzu (and Coop, Mac, and David) are uploaded and fancy-filtered and shared on IG (if the photos in this blog post look familiar it's probably because you follow me on Instagram).  A few months ago, a friend told me about a free promotional code to get a photobook of IG photos made and printed by Blurb.  I got a small book, 7x7", with a soft cover, and paid $8 for shipping.  Those photos cover the first two months of Zuzu and the photo book is so sweet.

Wittle bitty baby.
Because I like being consistent, and because I like tangible pictures of digital photos, I went ahead and ordered another book to take us from September to December of 2012.  I'd like to continue this tradition and order a Blurb instagram book every 6 months.  I won't include every single photo I post on IG, but it's a nice way to collect our favorites.

Yes, this is a favorite. Our little hoot-owl.
I also ordered a few IG photos printed in 3x3" squares from Kanvess.  These prints are cute as heck and I'm using them for a couple of little projects I have in mind.  They'd be darling in little frames, but they are also pretty darn adorable just stuck on the fridge.  At 25 cents a piece, they can also be tucked into thank you notes or turned into gift tags (and shipping is reasonable--I think it was $1.75 to ship my small order).

You wouldn't know she wasn't interested in people food by the look of her...
As for other prints, I'm trying to be consistent about uploading them to Shutterfly because that's where I've always gotten our photos printed, but I also use Mpix for ordering larger prints or prints I know I'm going to frame.  Mpix is located in Pittsburg, Kansas, which is close to my hometown, so I am partial to them for that reason alone.  But I also love their super quick service and the quality of their prints is noticeably nice, even to an untrained eye like mine.  They just feel like better pictures.  I especially love their wallet sized photos, which are already scored so you just pop them apart.  What I don't love is paying $7.99 for shipping (it's a flat rate for priority shipping, no matter how much or how little you order).  Packages do arrive very quickly (especially compared to Shutterfly, which I feel can take a while) but I always save up for a large order so I don't have to pay that shipping rate very often.  Also, they won't store your pictures--everything is deleted after 60 days unless you place another order.  This isn't really a big deal to me, but I do like how Shutterfly lets you keep all your albums indefinitely.

coffee date with Daddy, Sophie, and Baby Vicky
Shortly after Zuzu was born, I picked up a pink photo album at Kohl's because we were ordering pictures like crazy and I wanted somewhere to put them.  It has a basic cloth cover, pages hold 3 4x6 photos, and there's a small space to write next to the pictures.  The binding has already come loose.  I didn't love the photo album anyway, but I wanted to be sure I was keeping photos organized and actually in an album.  Going forward, what I really want is to find a consistent system that I can continue to use for many years.  Realistically speaking, I know I'm not going to be a scrapbooker.  I love paper and I love photos, so you'd think it would be something I would like, but I find the idea of scrapbooking to be stressful (for some reason, I cannot turn off my perfectionist tendencies in that area), far too time-consuming, and would quickly get more expensive than I'd like (I find scrapbooking accessories nearly irresistible at times, and I don't even scrapbook!).

Pretty in pink
I've considered the Project Life binder because this seems like a low-key way for me to do some scrapbook stuff--it's mostly just sticking photos in pockets, but there's optional cards that can be filled out and displayed in pockets as well.  (Michael's has its own version of this as well).  The best thing about this (in my uninformed opinion) is that you can display photos of different sizes (eventually I imagine I'll switch out some 5x7s that are currently framed, and I'd love to be able to put them in an album).  And you can write as much or as little as you'd like, if you want to caption or detail an event.  One downside is that the books are HUGE -- as I discovered whilte browsing at Michael's, 12x12 is gianormous when you're talking about a D-ring 3-ring binder.

First beer with Uncle Bubs.  Look how stoked she is.
I've also considered doing scrapbooks without scrapbooking--just sticking the pictures on the page, no cute paper, minimal writing.  I like the flexibility of this idea, and the possibility of including stuff besides photos (Christmas cards and party invitations, for example).  But I actually don't think I want my photos permanently affixed to the page.

Zuzu Petals
Similarly, although I love making photobooks on Shutterfly, I prefer to make those for special occasions--we've done one for our major vacation each year for a while now--rather than trying to make one huge one that would serve as our photo album for the year.

our little punkin
I'm leaning toward following the example of a friend and investing in Kolo photo albums.  The downside is the expense, but I figure they are ultimately less expensive than or at least comparable to scrapbooking.  The pocket photo albums I looked at when I was at Michael's were about $30, so Kolo is pricier than that, but I really like the quality and consistency, and the fact that they come in sizes that will fit an ordinary bookshelf.  I like coffee-table-sized photo albums in theory (I have one full of photos from our wedding reception) but I'm not sure I want to invest in a stack of them, you know?  With these albums, I'd have the option of switching colors, but (assuming they aren't rapidly discontinuing products) I'd get to invest in nice matching albums to fill my bookshelves.  The only reason I haven't done it yet is that as far as I can tell, they are all sized for 4x6 photos, and that doesn't solve my 5x7 + Christmas cards + birthday invitation problem.  Ideally, I'd like to keep all of those things together in one album.  I may just have to settle for a plastic sleeve I can affix to the inside of the back cover to hold such odds and ends...  (Surely the scrapbooking section would have something like that, right?)

tummy time with Cooper
So that's where I am on photo organization. I'd love to hear how you keep your photos organized, where you think the best place is to buy prints, what kinds of albums or scrapbooks you use, or even how you keep things organized on your computer...  Are you vigilant about updating albums monthly?  Do you just keep everything digital and not bother to print?  Do you do mass purchases a couple times a year?  Does it bother you not to have matching albums?

I defy you not to smile at this face.
Oh... maybe I should also say that I have no affiliation whatsoever with any of the companies or products mentioned and/or linked.  They have no idea who I am (but I would totally and unabashedly take their free stuff if they offered it.  I'm just sayin'.).

Friday, February 1, 2013

Grief Paradox

I've been feeling the need to write something about Eliza.

I've also been wondering if I've gotten to the point where I don't have anything new to say.

I still miss her.

It still sucks.

My heart still aches.

I'm carrying my grief better, but I'll never leave it behind.

And so it goes.

When I watched the inauguration, seeing the Obama sisters made me sad.  Because they are so cute and they look like sisters but they also look so different--one looks more like their dad, one looks more like their mom.  And I wonder.  What would it be like to see Eliza and Zuzu side by side?  Which one would look more like me and more like David?  Zuzu's eyes have changed from blue to green--would Eliza's have done the same?

Down at the bottom of my blog is a list of "labels"--I've labeled blog entries according to topic.  The number one blogged topic?  Grief.  Number two?  Eliza.  Then pregnancy.  Coming in fourth?  Caroline Audrey.

She's gaining on her sister, and let's be honest, she's going to surpass her.  I'm going to have more to say about Caro than I'll ever be able to say about Eliza.  Talk about bittersweet.  I feel like it's some kind of symbolism--Caroline's going to get bigger and bigger, and Eliza will stay about the same, but her name will inevitably grow smaller in comparison, just as it's the name that is spoken less often than her living, breathing sister's name.

When Eliza died, I was sort of embarrassed.  I don't think I've written very much about that emotion because I'm not sure I recognized it for what it was.  But I was ashamed that it had happened to me, that people might assume I'd done something wrong.  I initially felt a huge sense of dread at the idea of being "known for" having a stillborn baby.  Like people would think about me, and all they'd think about is the fact that my baby died.  Of all the facets of my life and personality, that's the one that would stick.  I was scared that that one event, and all the subsequent grief, would be the defining moment in my life, would take over my identity.  I'd be lost in grief forever.  I hated the idea that my entire life was going to be overshadowed by the tragedy of my baby's death.  As much as I missed her, I was desperately afraid of that being ALL there was to my life.  It seemed so terrible and suffocating.

Now I'm afraid that her loss is something people will forget.  That my current happiness will allow people to diminish the enormity of my grief.  That it will get rationalized away as a hardship we endured or an unfortunate thing we got over or made our way through instead of being recognized as the horrifying reality of experiencing and continuing to live with the death of of firstborn and much-loved child.

In December of 2010, I was desperate for time to pass.  I just wanted enough time to go by that I could take a deep breath again.  I craved distance from the pain.  It was so sharp and so deep and I had to believe it wouldn't hurt so bad forever, but I didn't know how long I could stand it to hurt as much as it did.

Now it still hurts, but I can take a deep breath.  The passage of time has made things easier to manage and although I don't miss the pain of those early days, I miss the proximity to Eliza.  The closeness.  The tangible memory of being pregnant with her when she was alive and squirmy and kicking and we were so ridiculously happy and optimistic.  So much has happened between then and now.

I quit planning ahead after Eliza.  I didn't make plans because (1) I didn't do anything (2) I didn't know if I'd ever feel like doing anything and (3) how the hell could I plan ahead when there's nothing you can count on in life?

I'm making plans again now.  We bought plane tickets for spring break.  We're making travel plans for the summer.  I'm even thinking a little bit about Zuzu's first birthday party--although that feels dangerous and I worry about jinxing myself even though I don't believe in that stuff (do I?).  When did I get so brave and so bold as to look forward to the future and assume things will work out the way I want them to?  Am I crazy for allowing myself to think months ahead, for counting on Zuzu still being here?

I still have to take a deep breath before I buy clothes for her to grow into.

Oh, I buy them, because I love a good deal.  But I think about it in a way I never would have before.

I wish I could say that Eliza's life changed me in all good ways.  I wish I could say that because of her I don't take things for granted and I appreciate the good things so much more and I make the most of ordinary moments and blah blah blah.

A lot of that is true.  But a lot of that was true before Eliza died, too.  I was lucky and appreciative then.  I didn't need a lesson in gratitude.  Not that kind of lesson, anyway.

I'm sighing now because I think I'm repeating myself.  I know I've said so much of this before... Like this:  Eliza's life--and loss--came with its own share of gifts.  It's true.  As much as I hate it, I can't deny that good came from it, came from loving her, and even from the experience of losing her.  (Nothing good enough to make up for it, that goes without saying.  But gifts, nonetheless.)

Still, grief carries its own baggage and takes its own prisoners.  For every new friend I have (and I have some lovely new friends), another friendship has been changed or complicated or scaled back in a way I never would have wished.  I've missed birthday parties and get-togethers and backyard barbecues because other people's celebrations (and children) made (make?) me jealous and selfishly sad.  I'm still hypersensitive about certain things--talk of the "difficulty" of having two kids close together in age, in particular.  Over Christmas some of David's cousins were talking about family plans--when they want to start having kids, how many they want to have--and I felt like I was going to vomit.  How can anyone think they can make plans and control such things?  How can people talk about that when I'm sitting right there--living proof of the best laid plans gone so terribly awry?  (Perfect example of me having worried that people would only see a dead baby when they looked at me and therefore would act differently--now I hate that they seem to forget all about the baby who isn't here and don't filter themselves at all).

There's a dark, twisty, bitter side of me that would have never existed if Eliza had lived. I feel differently about so many things--death, God, my marriage, Christmas.  Changes that are both good and bad.  Everything is just more complicated than it used to be.

Sometimes I let myself look forward to the idea of Zuzu doing certain things--taking gymnastics, going to see Sesame Street Live, really caring about the story I'm reading out loud--and I think, if Eliza were here, those events would be happening NOW, or a year from now, instead of two or three years down the line.

I'm so lucky to have a baby girl whose smile lights up my life.  I'm so incredibly lucky, and I know that.

But even now, I still miss what might have been, what should have been.  I can't even tell you how much I miss it.

This is maybe the biggest paradox of all--how much I love the life I have now, and how much I miss the life I should have had, and how impossible it would be to have both those things.