Punished

Michael’s death last year was ambiguous. All we know is that sometime during my perfect labor, he stressed enough to inhale meconium, and when he was born alive and crying less than ten minutes later, he suffocated on it.

We had an autopsy. We had tests. My doctor and nurses went over the monitor strips from that night with a fine tooth comb, but no answers were to be found outside of God.

They were quick to assure me it wasn’t my fault. How can a woman who has a perfect pregnancy, an easy five-hour labor, and a less-than-ten-minute pushing phase, who did everything right, who was built to have children better than many others be at fault?

I naively thought that since the medical community had decided it wasn’t me, that I’d get another chance: another chance at the labor and delivery experience I wanted, another chance to make it end right like every birth story should

Instead, I find myself sitting here at 4am, unable to sleep because I feel cornered and tormented like a feral cat.

Let me back up a bit.

This last week (week 38)  had an auspicious beginning — my body was busy doing its’ labor and delivery prep thang, and both me and my baby were doing fantastically. Then I found myself being bullied by my then doctor, and come to find out that not only had he decided that HE was in charge of my body (and didn’t care if I hated him for it), but that he’d been lying to me. Oh sure, you can try again, when he had no intention whatsoever of letting me out of my 39 week appointment without a chemical induction or forced surgery to rip this baby out of me.

So I found a new doc, because, be damned if I’m going to be railroaded without a viable medical reason — and not just a paranoid opinion. (Why do doctors always seem to assume the worst instead of assuming the best?) And even though I feel like I’m in better hands (because the new doc is actually up front with me!), I still feel cornered and punished for past events.

What no one tells you is that when you lose a baby so late in the game, that that’s all the time you get. Your obstetrical history from that point forward is flagged, and every subsequent pregnancy is only alotted that much time in the interests of “safety.” In other words, since I went into spontaneous labor at 39 weeks with Michael — and he died — that’s all the time the docs are willing to allow me to give birth on my own, that’s all the chance they feel comfortable letting me have for any other baby I might carry to “term.”

So here I sit, 39 weeks along with a perfectly healthy-thus-far baby, currently NOT in labor, and feeling like I’ve got to pick up my blade and fight my way out of a no-win battle with enemies on every side. Every appointment gets more tense, every appointment packs on the pressure to cave to the medical status quo. I feel cornered, and trapped, and frightened, because I’ve done a crap ton of research, and neither of their presented options (induction or mandated cesarean) appeal to me for the potential risks that are over and above what it might be to just let nature take its’ course in my particular case.

I am weary. Weary of being pregnant, weary of the snarled up ball of emotions, weary of fighting every. step. of. the. way. for a favorable, gentle, healing outcome. I am ready to have this baby happen, and to start that chapter of my life… All I want is to not have to fight for it any more.

Unfortunately, I’m not driving this show boat anymore. My baby is.

And he has less than a week.

God, I hate deadlines.

Set Up

I have sat down to write, and then trashed the post only to restore it a day later and try editing again, about ten times.

I still have no idea what, exactly, I want to say.

This last week my husband and I came to the conclusion we really should not wait any longer to set up the “nursery.” That, if we did nothing else, at least the furniture and big things should be moved and arranged.

The house was torn apart in about fifteen minutes. The cats hid in the bathroom, and I envied their ability to escape the chaos.

The upheaval — and what it represented — conspired to make me cranky. Not only did my cluttered, disaster-area of a living room turn into The Mess From Hell (which just makes me annoyed all by itself. Not that I’m some fantastic housekeeper or anything, but there’s clutter, and then there’s CLUTTER…), but seeing the familiar wood of the crib Michael never got to use tripped the tear faucet. Big time. I blubbered my way to work that morning, shamed by previous failure, and unable to shake this fear that the end is nigh. That the proverbial shoe is going to DROP at any minute, and we’ll be right back where we started when we returned home last June to a house-full of broken dreams and unfulfilled wishes. Or worse.

Please, God, don’t make me do it again. Don’t make my husband go through that again. Please, I beg — let us all live through this, healthy and whole…

Any time I’m not actively distracting myself with some other task, the fears rise up like a tidal wave and threaten to drown me. So spooked am I, that my version of “baby planning” this time is making contingency plans.

I realize I am far too wary for my own good.

The crib looked so very wrong, so I took a deep breath and waddled up to the storage room to get the blanket.

62425_491629704235719_1538027493_nI made that fleece blanket for Michael to have and use at cooler SCA events, a play on James’ registered heraldic device (Sable, a shark and a chief invected argent).

For some reason, the crib looks better now, with that draped across the edge.

Contingency plans are in the final stages.

I don’t know what else to do.

Three Months, or, Is This All I Get?

The third trimester has arrived, and with it, a cloud of melancholy.

Three months. Roughly 11 weeks.

While other mothers-to-be are busy drafting birth plans, laughing their way through baby showers, and rapidly finalizing plans for the time after, I am stopped cold in my tracks by the realization that this is it. That there very well could be nothing more after these few short months are up (and boy is time moving fast now…).

I feel… lost. Simultaneously, I relish and eagerly await every kick and squirm of this beautiful, precious child — and am annoyed at myself for making myself so vulnerable again. Too often it feels like I can’t breathe for the vicious, negative, doubting, fearful thoughts swirling in my head. Pregnancy the second time around has become a love/hate relationship, a trial to be endured. The fact makes me angry; I had so wanted it to be 100% joyful and beautiful and carefree like the first time, and I feel bitterly cheated.

People are overly eager in their camaraderie, however, their words hold absolutely nothing but spooky terror — how is a story of a relative who lost nine full-term children to various birth complications before she got to keep one supposed to comfort me? How is a story of a family who lost children, then the mother died during birth of the one who lived supposed to make me feel better and less worried? (How dare I even go through with this, knowing my husband could be left a widower with no way to care for a baby AND run the farm on his own?) How do tales of the risks, the complications endured, the discomforts and physical trauma experienced during their pregnancy and birth (not to mention all the other things that can go wrong with a child’s development) supposed to make me feel courageous and brave? How are these stories — which highlight all the loss and none of the success — supposed to make me feel like this is even worth it in the long run?

It doesn’t. I know these “helpful Heloises” mean well, but it just makes me feel like a certifiably crazy, flipping idiot in all my irresponsible glory for even wanting to try this again.

Eleven weeks.

Is it truly the beginning of the end as I fear?

I cannot stand this not-knowing.

Blindsided

Why is it that just when you think you have your life neatly organized and figured out, that God or fate or karma or whatever decides it’s time to throw a monkeywrench in it?

Looking back I can honestly say the six months following Michael’s death were crap. Total crap. I was miserable, my husband was mostly miserable. I was floundering, emotionally. Because there’s no guidebook, road map, brochure, or even sucky GPS directions for how to navigate the days of grief. The days leading up to Thanksgiving were the breaking point, but then things began turning around. I’m still, achingly, not pregnant, and still, heartbreakingly, not a mother… But over this last month I finally started having a handle on life. I got brave and took on new projects, I threw myself hard into the creative side of my life, and it tided me over through the awkward interactions and the daily difficulty of Life Without Michael.

In short, life began to make sense again.

Then today, ugh, today. Someone I know let slip that they were pregnant.

And oh my. Talk about feeling completely blindsided, like I’ve been kicked in the gut when I’m down… I was completely and totally unprepared for the vicious onslaught of emotions. Feelings I thought I had finally managed to file away in their proper spot, thoughts and reactions I had convinced myself were safely sealed away in their airtight Tupperware — all. came. bursting. to. the. surface.

I’m sure I turned white as a sheet. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears and see spots in front of my eyes and those are physiological things that never happen to me unless I’ve been physically stressing myself by running flat out after a loose cow or something. WTF?

It’s not like I haven’t been around pregnant women before. It’s not like I haven’t been around babies since Michael’s death. I’m okay. Those things don’t hurt anymore. Not like this. I just can’t figure out what the trigger is this time…? Why was this casual information so much harder to swallow?

It was a challenge to keep my cool and not be awkward, but I did it. I think I navigated the questions about whether I had kids or had been pregnant before with tact. Maybe not finesse, but tact. And for that I’m proud.

But afterwards I admit I bawled.
I sniffled through evening chores.
I crawled into bed and slept for an hour.
Then I got up and bawled some more.

The only thing I can think is that at least I’m getting it all out of my system.

But — what the Hell, God?!?!

Another friend of mine put it best, I think: “Sometimes figuring out grief is like a drunk blind man leading another drunk through a maze.”

Blessings Jar

There’s this photo that’s been floating around on Facebook detailing this little DIY project: a jar you fill with notes about all the good things that happen to you during the year, which you can read on New Year’s.

I like it.

Last night I made myself one, and decided to start writing my blessings early. After so much darkness in 2013, I am going to challenge myself to write one good thing that happens each day.

Here’s to 2014!

Goodbye 2013, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

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Scared

“You look like my mommy,” she said, looking up at me from the little computer chair with an excited little-girl smile. “Will you stay here with me? I want you to stay here with me.” She latches onto my arm and starts inspecting my fingers and hands with a child’s intensity.

I am on duty at The Day Job and her innocent, sweet words feel like a stake in my heart. I don’t want to cry in front of her, and so I politely extricate myself so I can go bawl in the bathroom in peace.

It has been a couple months since I have cowered among the porcelain toilets, using toilet paper and my shirt sleeve to wipe my sniffly nose because the only box of kleenexes are out behind the front counter in full view. I thought I was over this shit. Well, over the crying-in-the-bathroom-like-a-teen-dumped-at-prom shit. I had been doing so well, exerting the strength and willpower to only let the tears fall when no one else could see. And thankfully, since I had my God Experience, I simply haven’t felt like crying. Not like this.

But this little girl’s happy insistence that I remind her of her mother feels like nails on a chalkboard and I am unstable. I am in tears before I ever make it to the door.

I feel torn in two. I feel we should try again, that I especially must try to fulfill this new-found need to be a parent. I ache to hold and raise a child and yet I am plain scared. If I thought my fears about being a parent were ever bad before, the thought of going through it all again — the joy of the positive test, the elation of the little aspects of pregnancy, the anticipation… only to leave the hospital again with empty arms — far outstrips any doubts I may have had about “life after baby.” I want it so bad I can taste it, but I fear it, too.

If the choice were laid out on a table — two neat cards, one for “pregnant” and one for “barren” — I wouldn’t have the strength to choose. Not knowing what I have been through. Not knowing how you can go the entire 9 months, how everything can be charmed and everyone says it’s a done deal, and you can still watch your child die in the doctor’s hands. If it were so easy as to just pick a card for the outcome, I would beg someone else — God, or my husband — to make the decision for me because I am so cowardly that I can’t knowingly set myself up for hurt like this. In my world, there is no such thing as blind faith because I have been blessed with vision for all potential consequences. Once the decision is made, however, I could deal with it and the ways it could play out — steadfastly, bravely, calmly — because I am that type of girl. I was raised to grit my teeth and carry on, regardless of what shit was hitting the fan.

Instead, I’m standing in front of the table staring at the cards like I’ve been staring at them ever since the doctors told us they couldn’t save our son. Instead I’m here bawling in the bathroom because a little girl compared me to her mother and I don’t know that I’ll ever be that for anyone except a ghost.