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Monday, July 28, 2008

Stillbirth, Shmillbirth

Hello KuKd Tribeswomen and Inquisitive Guests, from a youth hostel in Krakow, Poland, which is so ridiculously crammed with tourists (yes, we're two of 'em) that we're leaving tomorrow before I have an anxiety attack.

For the past three weeks, I've learned a lot about everyone's favorite cocktail chit-chat topic: World War II history, and the many horrific ways in which the Baltic and Eastern European people, including but not limited to the Jews, were seriously, hardcore screwed (for lack of a better word) by two sadistic assholes . I do vaguely recall my elderly European History teacher from 9th grade saying something about how Hitler and Stalin were "real bad guys," but at the time I was way more focused on flipping my newly permed hair in just the right way so that I'd get the attention of the cute new guy in the class. And if my teacher ever said anything about the grim fate of the Poles and Lithuanians and Latvians, it most definitely fell on deaf double-pierced ears.

Today, we visited Auschwitz. Now, you all know the basic gist of Auschwitz and the atrocities that went on there. So I won't launch into that, or how disturing and distracting it was to hear Russian tourists yap loudly on their cellphones and slurp icecream bars in the background while I was trying to concentrate on close-up shots of emaciated child-victims of Nazi medical experiments.

The one thing that got me was a collection of very realistic drawings by an Auschwitz survivor, one of which was entitled "Goodbye My Dear." It depicted a young couple on the platform where they separated men from women and decided who would go straight to the gas chambers, the young man in a suit kissing his pretty, concerned wife and two children goodbye. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Like triple ouch.

In a moment of a moment of self-reflection, I realized how pathetically miniscle my problems seem by comparison. God, I'm living on easy street, with a husband who's my best friend, a dog who loves me even when I haven't showered in days, nobody threatening to shoot me in the head, two eyes that see and a brain that works, and much, much more. I read or heard once, probably from one of those BOGS in some book, that grief and gratitude form a circle where they blend into one another. At first I thought that sounded retarded, but now I totally get it. And three weeks of traveling here has pushed me a little bit more toward, or further into, the "gratitude" piece of that circle.

So here's what I'm going to do tonight: I'm going to tell K that I love him, even though he's not that into sentimental conversations, that I appreciate everything he is and does, and wouldn't ever want him to change. And I'm going to try, from this day forward, to say a little "thank you" to the sky each day, or every other day at least, for giving me such an amazing person. I challenge all y'all to do the same, this very day. Like, right now if you can. Think of that one person you'd die without, or at least be seriously F'ed up without, and tell them or e-mail them how much you love them. You don't even have to relate it to Auschwitz - they might think it odd if you do - but you can if you want.

Oh, and while I'm on the subject of gratitude, I'd like to give a personal shout-out to Elsa, who recently posted on my guestbook, which I would link to right now but this Krakow computer isn't letting me - probably all those drunk Brit tourists' fault. So you'll just have to click on the upper righthand side to view her post. Elsa is a very strong, recent KuKd Momma and has dreams to go to Cameroon and keep making sarcastic jokes. I have a feeling she will in the not-too-distant future, and that Zachary is keeping her little one company up there.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Perfectionist Parenting at its Worst

Greetings Strong Kukd Mommas and Inquisitive Guests, from the Person Who Has Established Herself as a Sleepless, Jittery Tooth-Grinder With a Peeing Problem (call me PWHEHSJTGPP for shorts).

Beautiful, totally-exceeding-my-expectations Vilnius (that's the capital of Lithuania, by the way, not a brand of shampoo or an elegant restaurant) is inspiring me to talk briefly about one of the many reasons why I'm glad I'm doing this trip: it's really good for me to be away from my kid - oops, I mean my dog Tebow - for a while.

That's because I think I was in danger of becoming that uber-protective, obsessive doggy mommy that everyone makes fun of. I mean, there are such mommies of real children, and I do always look at those mommies and hope I don't ever become one. But there's something worse about being that way with a dog, something that gets eaten in dog stew in other countries. Not to mention a dog acquired as a quick baby replacement, something the BOGS would wholeheartedly disapprove of.

Here's what happened with Tebow. You know how everyone always thinks they know the best way(s) to parent a child? I mean, how freakin' easy is it to look at other parents and criticize what they do (no daughter of MINE would ever have a cell phone before her late twenties, when I got one!).
Well, I had my mental list of parenting strategies too, many of which I'd picked up from my own near-perfect parents, and planned on implementing long before either of my doomed fetuses (fetii?) had ever been conceived. And when Tebow entered the picture, I became obsessed with transferring those parenting strategies to my own puppy: that is, make sure that Tebow lived, in doggy terms, the kind of life that I would want my own child to have.

The problem was, the puppy-training books all warned me fervently that I had to do everything I could before Tebow hit the 16-week age mark, because after that, he would no longer be so impressionable. All bad habits would remain forever, and no further good habits would develop. And since we got him at 12 weeks, I had a very limited time frame in which to mold my puppy into a dog with a beautiful character. So I went on a mad, insane rush to get as much of it done as possible before that looming 16-week deadline. Some examples:

1) Child shall be peaceful, well-socialized, and accepting of people from all races, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds (mad dashes to the dog park and puppy play group after work, begging pedestrians to stop and pet and hold my puppy, taking him everywhere on my bike)

2) Parent shall give child world experiences and independence by letting go of parental control and pushing him out into the world to figure things out on his own (dog park as a puppy: letting him wander alone, not rushing to his defense when other dogs tried to hump him or paw-smack him, allowing him to deal with canine confrontation on his own, as much as it hurt my heart)

3) Child shall not be viewed as mere accessory to my life, but as a real being with curiosities, needs, desires, and therefore shall get to try lots of new things even though they might not seem conventional (Tebow gets as much off-leash, squirrel-chasing, lake-swimming, unfettered romping, mud-rolling time as possible because THAT'S WHAT DOGS DO, even though it means risking $100 tickets and extra baths)

It was really stressful trying to cram all this character-development into such a short period of time while also juggling a new job and coming to terms with my fresh KuKd status. K can attest to the teary-eyed conversations where I would whine, "it's too much!!!"

Now that the 16-week mark is long past (Tebow is turning one on July 30th!) and all that pressure is off, I'm much, much better. Tebow is definitely not a perfect dog, his biggest shortcoming being that he's slightly over-attached and howls like there's no tomorrow when K and I leave. But he's close enough to perfect to fill my heart with puppy-motherly pride, and plus I think I secretly like that he loves me and K so passionately, expressing his affection so unabashedly.

I think it's healthy to be away, for the fourth parenting mantra is: parent shall not become emotionally dependent on child. I like knowing that I can survive without that scruffy little boy. And, although I was worried about leaving him for five weeks (he's in good hands, don't worry), K pointed out that "he'll be stronger from this experience."

I think I'll be stronger from this experience, too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

KuKd Side Effect #3: Caffeine Addiction

Here's how the vicious cycle of Dark Elixer addiction started. During a couple of months following my Ultimate Shitty Event, I couldn't sleep at night, kept awake by what I call "mind chatter" (meanwhile, Kevin snoozed with oh-so-irritating ease beside me). Typical 2am mind chatter goes like this:

"Relax, Monica. Go to sleep."

"Okay. But I CAN'T sleep!"

"You'd better sleep, because you have to get up at seven AM to go to work tomorrow. Today, actually, since it's officially today. It WOULD be tomorrow if you'd gone to sleep at ten, when you originally planned to sleep."

"I WOULD go to sleep if I could sleep, and if you would stop talking!"

"I'm not going to stop telling you to sleep until you sleep. So SLEEP, darn it!"

Three AM would pass, and then four AM. And finally, I'd say screw it, get up and brew myself a half-pot of coffee, which I'd sip in the living room while grading essays. When the first hints of daylight appeared on the horizon, I'd think YAY! I can legitimately get up now, I mean like really get up and take a shower and eat some Grape Nuts, and not be considered a freak! So I would, and I'd get dressed and head to work. °

Needless to say, around one o'clock that afternoon, I would start to crash, my eyelids getting heavy and my brain starting to feel as though it were enclosed in a translucent film of heavy vegetable oil. This would inevitably happen during either: a) office hours, when my non-native English speaking students were lined up at my door with grammar questions for which I needed to be moderately awake to even MAKE UP answers (like, why do we say "my alarm went off" when we mean "it went on?"); or b) right before tenure working committee meetings when I needed to appear relatively aware of what was being disussed and asked of me.

So what would I do? Brew myself a pot of coffee in the office, and drink a cup or two. Just to prop me up and get me through the day. Boy, it worked like a charm. And another one around four PM if necessary to make it home in one piece.

So began my journey to full-fledged coffee addiction: that is, daytime coffee sipping just to stay relatively awake. Here I am, nearly a year later, hooked on that lovely Dark Elixer - lots in the morning, and one or two cups in the afternoon if I can hack it.

The good news is, I'm not to the point of cramming the grounds into my gums like my friend Ben from work used to do. Also, during this trip, I've refrained- for the most part - from coffee, outside of my morning several cups. But that's just because we're frequently in the middle of nowhere in the afternoons while riding our bikes, and going totally out of our way to find that yummy Dark Elixer would be slightly insane. I'm just not ready to go the route of insanity.

Zachary, some unsolicited advice: if you're going to get addicted to something up in Baby Heaven, don't follow Mommy's example. Get hooked on carrot sticks or flax seed instead.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

KuKd Side Effect #2: Peeing with Gusto!

Hi Guests and KuKd Mommas!

As we prepare to load up our bikes and head to Riga, the Latvian capital which we've heard is infested with drunk British frat boys, I thought I'd leave you with one quick tidbit to mull over. Something to lighten up the depressing tenor of my last post, in the spirit of totally embarrassing myself - my specialty.

Another side effect that I've had the joy of experiencing since KuKd#2 is that I can't hold my pee as long as I used to be able to. Ladies with babies, is this a baby-having thing? Or is it somehow stress-related (a favorite diagnosis of all my doctors)? Or am I just getting old? Whatever the cause, suffice to say that sneezing or laughing hard are sometimes, um, fraught with peril. And road trips with K are very much about the rest stops. I'm always aware of when the next one's coming.

My next idea for a new invention, other than a mouth guard with string that attaches to the ceiling so that it doesn't get lodged in your wind pipe (I'm calling it "Choke No More"), is what I would call a Ladies Travellin' Pee-Buddy. I've told some of you about this idea before, but allow me to explain again. Basically, it would be designed to allow frequently-peeing women to go on long road trips without stopping at rest stops every hour or two. It would consist of a suction-cup thingy that you sit directly on top of and pee into, with a plastic clear tube goes out the window, which is cracked open an inch. So when you had to go pee, you'd just go, right there in the car, and your urine would get siphoned automatically out the tube and out the window in a glistening stream. Brilliant!

Now, for the record, there is something similar on the market - but nothing that gives you that awesome siphoning action.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Good Snotty Cry

Hi KuKd Strong Mommas and Inquisitive Guests! It's me again, your jaw-aching KuKd Momma.

I know I promised this wouldn't be another boo-hoo pregnancy loss blog. But allow me to indulge for a brief moment in sappy sentiment. Go ahead and pull up a chair, kids, put on your comfy slippers and grab a steaming mug of whiskey-spiked hot chocolate for the ride (is that a real drink, by the way? or did I make that up? should I patent it?)

Here goes: I had a Good, Snotty Cry today, the kind where I was wiping snot on the back of my hand (skin is not very absorbent of snot, for the record) and making loud sounds. Altogether unsexy, unbecoming, not at all in line with the Strong Momma persona I put forth on this blog. To be totally honest, I don't really do that so much anymore - only under special circumstances, such as the women's "healing retreat" I had the pleasure of attending last month (that's a whole 'nother story, so stay tuned!)

It had to do with writing a chapter in my book about calling my parents to tell them we were about to lose the baby. Such a simple detail I'd forgotten about, how it felt, how it hurt.

Dad said "hello?" in his relaxed way, and I could totally picture him standing there at the sunny kitchen counter in their big house in St. Louis, reading the paper and sipping Starbucks. Standing and not sitting, because of the nerve damage he's got in his groin from a bad bout of shingles. He never, ever complains about it unless you ask him directly how he's feeling, but my mom and brother and I know it causes him agony, and wish more than anything we could make it stop. My dad is such...a nice, beautiful person. Intelligent and soft-spoken and the best listener in the world. He doesn't deserve that kind of pain. He's hot, too - totally handsome with his dark hair (now turning silver) and Irish, angular face. He teachers folk dancing and all the ladies love him Pushing seventy, he was excited to be a first-time grandpa in just six short weeks, and until twenty minutes before this particular phone call, I was damned proud to be FINALLY doing something to distract him from the pain. Giving him a baby.

I know, how village farm-girl of me to think that way. But that's how I felt.

But I knew the bad-ass truth, and I was about to ruin his morning. When I said "Dad? Um, something's wrong with the baby" in a taut voice, about an octave higher than my normal tone, he covered up the receiver and called up the stairs, "JUDY! It's Monica! Pick up! TROUBLE!"

Instantly, I heard an audible click and my mom's voice. "Honey? What's wrong?"

Ahh, my mom. You have no idea how motherly she is, how nurturing, how perfectly awesome a grandma she would make. She's young at heart, fun and wacky, and so unbelievably caring, it almost hurts.
Once she picked up, I kind of babbled a bunch of stuff, can't remember what now. Like a kid who had just been beat up at school. I felt like a ten-year-old.

Anyway, there's more to the story, but that's the part that got me going. There's something about the hurt in their voices, steeped in shock and sadness, that makes me "feel" every time. My parents deserve a grandchild, and my hot-ass brother who has women flocking around him isn't going to help out with that (ARE YOU READING THIS, PAUL??), so it's kind of up to me.

Damn it!

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Hidden Side Effect of KuKd

Most of my friends would tell me I haven't really changed since KuKd came barging into my life, at least not in any obvious ways. There are a few subtle changes, however, for stress seems to manifest itself in odd ways. One in particular is bugging me at this exact moment, as I sit here at a pub in a quiet Estonian village. It has to do with, of all things, my teeth. My back molars, to be exact.

Now, I've never had never had any major tooth problems, other than the couple of fillings that I required after a year of working at the university library, where I sat at the front desk for fifteen hours a week, way too close to a endless dish of butterscotch candies. My dental appointments have always been uneventful: a routine cleaning, a "your teeth look great!" and a free toothbrush.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I went in for my first cleaning after moving to Seattle, six months after my first ugly bout of KuKd, and the dentist - a vaguely Asian guy with thick glasses - tapped on my back right molar with a sharp thing and said, "looks like we have a problem."

"A problem?" I tried to say. But, with my mouth wide open, it came out like "a pahleh?"

"You're a tooth grinder, aren't you." He removed the sharp instrument and let me close my mouth so I could respond like a normal human.

"Um, no. What do you mean?"

"Ever wake up with headaches? Jaw aches?"

I shook my head. Actually, I did get headaches fairly often, but not necessarily in the mornings. Why even mention them to this stranger hovering over my face.

"Well, your molars are worn down like a classic nighttime tooth-grinder's. Sometimes this habit is hereditary, sometimes stress-induced. You'd better start wearing a mouth guard at night, or these are really going to hurt. And you'll need caps - those are pretty costly, young lady."


I never got the mouth guard because it was going to cost me nearly $500 for a custom-made one. Plus, I seriously doubted there was a real problem - probably some ploy to get me to buy an overpriced dental widget.

Then, just a few months ago, I went to a new dentist, one closer to our new house.

"You're a tooth grinder, aren't you," she said, tapping on my back teeth. "Wow, these are worn way down for someone only in their thirties. Anything stressful going on? Does this run in your family?"

"No and no," I said, but it came out like "ngo anh ngo" since my mouth was wide open. This poor woman didn't need to know that yes, my baby had been stillborn just a few months ago.

Okay, I was now officially concerned. I was turning into a worn-down-molar freak. So I bought a mouth guard - just a cheap one from the sporting goods store.

The problem is, I never wear it because I'm constantly paranoid that I might swallow it in my sleep. Seriously, could that happen? If not, why not? People have swallowed bigger things, haven't they? Like those Japanese hot dog swallowers. I've tried sleeping with it several times, repeatedly waking up in a panic, thinking I've inhaled it. K calms me down and tells me I'm dreaming and I should go back to sleep. So I eject the spit-covered thing from my mouth and it always lands on the floor, where it remains and gets covered with dust for the next few days, right up until I decide to give it another try.

To this day, I've never made it through the night with that thing in my mouth. I told K that somebody needs to invent a string or a metal rod type of thing that attaches to the mouth guard on one end and the ceiling on the other, so that it holds the mouth guard in place and keeps it from going down your esophagus as you sleep. Or worse, your wind pipe, would would cause you to choke to death.

Needless to say, I didn't bring it on this trip. Why bother. But, now I can feel myself getting a slight jaw-ache, and grinding my teeth, yes, even during the day. In fact, I'm sort of doing it now. I feel guilty for disregarding the dentist's advice, knowingly wearing my teeth down, but yet I can't shake the feeling that I might die if I wear that thing.

It NEVER used to be this way before KuKd. Arrgh!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What´s Your Story, Morning Glory?

Howdy Peeps! I created a guest book because I thought it might be a nice place for blog readers to share their stories. Also, I´m just curious to know more about my handful of regular readers. Go ahead and make my day by being among the first to sign!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Books and Grief Counselors and Social Workers (BOGS)

Hi KuKd Strong Mommas and Inquisitive Guests! I changed the title of this post because the first was too unwieldy to say. It's been nearly eleven months, almost one year (OMG, has it really been that long!!!) since my Ultimate Shitty Event, and here I am at a hotel in the hilly town of Tartu, southeast Estonia, my arse sore as hell from riding for hours and hours and hours the past three days.

I'm thinking about the day of our Ultimate Shitty Event, and about the many things we did wrong, some intentionally, some not. Things that Books, Grief Counselors, and Social Workers, which I shall hereby refer to as one vast shadowy entity called BOGS, would condemn. We followed our instincts, bumbling blindly through the minutes and days following the news that our baby was dying and wouldn't survive delivery, without bothering to listen to BOGS, or even consult with BOGS in the first place.

Honestly, I didn't feel that I wanted BOGS, some fifty-something white lady with a PhD, who had probably never experienced KuKd in her life, telling me how to think, act, and feel. Probably the type with her own personal problems and insecurities, the type who gets her jollies off other people's drama, making herself feel important by slathering KuKd Mommas with advice. Screw that, I thought. So we went it alone, for better or for worse.

BOGS said to look at the baby's face. We just pulled back a tiny piece of blanket and saw his mouth, wide open in an “Oh Shit!” of dismay, and that was enough for me. BOGS said to see the whole baby, not hidden in a blanket, and give the baby a bath. K and I said no way Jose, because we just couldn't fathom how this corpse of an infant could possibly be our baby. BOGS said to hold the baby for a long time and do things like sing to it and kiss its face. But again, to me this wasn't my baby, just a cheap substitute, a consolation prize of sorts, so I said I would pass on that, thanks. BOGS said to leave the baby room as is, with the cradle and clothing and what-nots still there, so that we could go hang out in that room later on and feel miserable. Instead, we had our friends Jen and Jayson rush over there before we got home from the hospital, clear out that room and hide any evidence of baby-ness in the garage, including the What to Expect book. And it's all still there, probably getting moldy. BOGS said to name the baby and say that name frequently: I couldn't even bear to utter a name until about a month later. When I busied myself by sending out birth/death announcements in cute blue lettering, I just called him Baby Boy LeMoine, because that's all I could bring myself to say.

The one time I did go to a BOGS professional, a grief counselor at Group Health, I got irritated and left without looking back. She was, indeed, a white 50-something lady with a PhD and a box of Kleenex, primarily interested in hearing herself spew forth words of wisdom with a look of self-importance on her face. She looked satisfied when I shed a few tears, as I tried to ignore the photos of her own three healthy kids on the wall, and she finally said, “I can't imagine what you're going through.” Ahh, the truth: she was not KuKd, not a part of the tribe. And I had no use for her.

I wonder nowadays how my ignorance of BOGS's advice affected my - if I'm a bad person, a weak person, a stupid person, an uncaring person, for not paying attention to all those BOGS. If there were some experiment to see how women fare after KuKd and I was part of a control group - the group that did everything wrong - what would be the difference between me and other women who did everything right? Looking back, sometimes I wish I'd followed the rules.

Actually, I still go back and skim parts of Empty Cradle, Broken Heart from time to time, because it's got some useful bits without the condescending tone of some BOGS in-person (although I still suspect it's written by an aforementioned 50-something, non-KuKd white lady with PhD and a love of giving advice). But what I find most therapeutic, more than any BOGS really, is reading The Onion, and watching the entire season of The Office (British version, of course) on DVD.

Check those things out if there's Wi-Fi and Netflix up there in baby heaven, Zachary. Ignore the profanity, though; only grown-ups are allowed to say those things.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Down with the Prenatal Diet!

So, technically I suppose I could get KU on this trip, although my gut tells me that won't happen. But since it could maybe happen, I guess I ought to be abstaining from coffee and alcohol, and toting around a gigantic bottle of prenatal vitamins, powdered organic milk (does that exist??), and the dried seaweed that the Korean grocer in my neighborhood gave me for "better blood-flow to the next baby" (so THAT was the problem!).

But I just can't do it, not on my vacation! Like most KuKd Strong Mommas, I did everything right the first two times I was KU, and I still got Knocked Down. So I say: down with the prenatal diet, or at least the pre-KU diet! Now it's my turn to live my life MY way, E for Embrace myself, and revel in my NEW pre-natal diet, Baltic style. It's fairly limited for there just isn't much choice out here in the Estonian countryside: fried potatoes, fried mystery meat that all tastes vaguely like hot dogs, beer, coffee, hunks of non-descript white cheese, and the occasional tomato or cucumber to aid in digestion. And I'm sticking to it until I get back home in four weeks.

Are you listening from up there, little Zachary? Life is short, as you know, so live it up. We didn't get to be together this time, that's for later down the line, but go ahead and enjoy your life up there in Baby Heaven. No time to dwell on the sad part. Splurge on the most expensive cocktails around (sans the alcohol, of course), the $80 Ralph Lauren infant-size polo shirt, the top end baby food made pureed from rare organic truffles and sauteed yams.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Time for the "E" to Shine

Hello, KuKd Strong Mommas and Inquisitive Guests! Ready for something positive? OK, here we go.

Recall that "E" in H.E.A.L. is for Embrace yourself, the you that you are without little yous running around with poopy diapers and shrill voices. Back in February, during a week or so when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself and inconsolably disgusted with my permanent postpartum paunch belly (thanks, little Zachary. You really left your mark.), K and I asked each other what we could do to Embrace. That is, to do something purely for ourselves, something that reflects what we love and value, something that we wouldn't do if we had rugrats to tend to (other than Tebow, our current canine rugrat). Here's what we came up with: since we're both teachers and have our summers off, let's take a five-week trip this year to someplace cool, without any plan. We've both been craving some European time, but thought it best to stay away from the Euro altogether. KuKd has already kicked our asses; we don't need our wimpy U.S. dollars' butts kicked too. So, as a compromise, we decided on Eastern Europe. Just Europe-y enough to be Europe, but - we hope - a bit cheaper.

So off we go, this very night in fact. Glorious "E" for Embrace! Straight to Helsinki via Copenhagen with our folding bikes and camping gear, and bike/bus/train down to Budapest, through the Baltics and Poland. We have no plan or maps or anything in between - our bikes and our gear and ourselves. And Zachary will be with us in the form of this awesome embossed necklace my friend Kristen sent me for Mother's Day (she is one of those totally hoard-able friends that inspired me to make my KuKd strategies "HEAL" instead of "EAL").

I hope this is OK; am I techincally allowed to be this excited, to have this much fun, a mere 10.5 months after the Ultimate Shitty Event? Will the powers that be think ill of me? Forgive me, Zachary sweetheart! Your spirit will live on in the form of...Latvian beer! None of those little Estonian babies will be as cute as you, I swear!

By the way, we are bringing one small laptop because we are slaves to modern technology. I'll be posting once or twice a week here with my trip-inspired KuKd musings, and more detailed accounts of our trip will be at K's travel blog, for those who care to know more:

Earth Momma Healing Retreat

EARTH MOMMA: Healing Retreat for Infant Loss
Harmony Hill Retreat Center
(outside Seattle, WA)

October 16-18, 2009

WHAT: Join us in a serene, intimate environment to connect with other women who have recently lost an infant just before or after birth. This is not a counselor-led program, but just a chance for women with similar experiences to come together to share, listen, and relax. This year's retreat will be held Friday evening through Sunday morning, October 16-18, at Harmony Hill. Harmony Hill is a tranquil retreat space on the Hood Canal, two hours from Seattle, Washington. If you fly to Seattle, Shanon and Monica, the organizers, may be able to give you a ride to Harmony Hill depending on when your flight arrives. There is also shuttle service.

Friday's schedule will consist of dinner and time to meet and share our stories. On Saturday, we will have several talking/sharing sessions with the possiblity of an art project in rememberance of our babies, and plenty of free time for optional yoga/massages, resting, and exploring the beautiful grounds of Harmony Hill. Sunday will consist of breakfast and goodbyes.

This retreat is for ANY WOMEN who have recently lost an infant before or after birth (stillbirth, infant death). It is organized by babylost mommas Monica LeMoine, blogger and founder/editor of Exhale Magazine, and Shanon Lyon, Seattle-area writer/editor. It is not affiliated in any way with any official corporate or non-profit group or religion.

The price is $275 per person for a shared room, or $350 for private room (if you choose the cheaper shared-room option, you'll be placed randomly with a roommmate, unless you specifically request someone). This includes 2 nights accomodation and all vegetarian organic meals (Friday dinner through Sunday breakfast).

Optional extras
(prices subject to change a wee bit):

$20 for a 1-hour group yoga class on Saturday morning
$40 for a 1/2 hour full-body massage
$80 for a 1-hour full-body massage

Space is limited! We are keeping this group very small, and participants will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. Reserve your place by August 15th, 2009 by sending a check for the full amount above (your room cost - single or shared - plus any extra massage or yoga instruction that you want) to:

Monica LeMoine
335 NE 92nd St.
Seattle WA, 98115

Questions? E-mail Monica ( or Shanon ( Monica can also be reached at 206-420-3060.
Harmony Hill organic gardens:

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Don't Mess With the Alpha Queen Bitch

Howdy, KuKd Strong Mommas and Inquisitive Guests!

I like anger. I believe that anger has its legitimate uses in life. Sarah Jessica Parker, her obnoxious shoe collection, and the Bush administration all make me mad, and it feels good to rant about them. I also believe that anger is a totally natural part of the grieving process. Finally, I believe in becoming a pissed off, over-controlling bee-yatch for the sake of my own health - but only over things that I actually can control.

I came across this organization called the National Stillbirth Society ( I'll call it NSS for short. NSS seems to be comprised of a group of folks who want to duke it out with Mother Nature; they want their stillborn babies back, they harbor lots of resentment, and they want the rest of the world to be as angry as they are. Hey, I can totally relate to that sentiment, having felt (notice the past tense) that way for months on end. There are several things that bother me about NSS.

First, the website implies that stillbirth can be prevented. And if someone is going to tell me that there are things I can do to prevent KuKd (other than the obvious, like not smoking crack and doing belly flops from the high dive), then my next pregnancy (if that happens) is going to be a filled with stress and anxiety. You may as well start calling me Pregzilla right now. The website's glaring red "STAMP OUT S.A.D.S" (Sudden Antenatal Death Syndrome) logo irritates me, partially because I think the font and color are kind of fear-mongering, and also because it suggests that we can and should fight against something that Mother Nature orchestrates, like stinky cow farts or thunderstorms. Why affix KuKd with a label like "syndrome?" Isn't KuKd caused by all sorts of things?

NSS also seems to be big on generating mass hysteria around stillbirth, like it's this crazed monster that must be stopped. Excerpts include:
  • "Stillbirth is an 'Equal Opportunity Destroyer of Dreams! Norman Rockwell type mothers can have stillbirths and 'crack mothers' can have live births!" (read: even YOU, law-abiding, socioeconomically stable Caucasian female with lawyer husband and McMansion, can be affected!)
  • At present there's no way to predict who will be next!" (be afraid, be very afraid!)
  • "There is no excuse to allow stillbirths to continue on as it has for all of recorded history!"
I have little use for such sweeping propaganda right now, for it just doesn't square with any of my H.E.A.L survival strategies for KuKd. The "L" of my KuKd Survival Strategies: LET GO.

To digress for a moment, one thing that was both refreshing and frustrating about teaching in Uzbekistan for 2.5 years was that people didn't seem to get angry about much over there. If the bus driver pulled over for an hour to do vodka shots, if the school dining halls served tasteless rice-like slop with pebbles mixed in, if the water stopped running, people got over it. At first, I was like, what is wrong with you people! Rise up and fight the power! But after a while, I learned to relax and stop trying to control everything. I even threw caution to the wind and started drinking water from the spigot outside my house, even though I knew it meant dooming myself to shitting water at some point, and just accepted that I would never ever ever get anywhere on time. Some things were simply beyond my control.

When KuKd reared its ugly head, I was angry at first. Angry at the doctors for not taking me seriously when I told them my baby wasn't moving enough. Angry at the fetal medics for not fixing Zach's heart problem or coming up with any answers. Angry at my mother for asking me once a week what the answers were, even though I continually told her I didn't know. Nobody knew. And now, nearly eleven months later: I've let go of most of that anger and control syndrome. At least I'm trying to. I'd venture to say that our entire American culture has issues with control, but that's another conversation.

Hey, I respect Mother Nature - she's an alpha queen bitch, the head cheerleader who was always gorgeous and confident, the one in charge - and I'm not going to mess with her. Trying to rearrange her plan is like pushing hard against a wall of air. Totally unsatisfying.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

This Blog is Kinda Weird for Me

Have you ever been around a person whose sense of self-identity is so shaped by some particular past experience or personal hardship that they insist on bringing it into every single goddammed conversation? Anytime they're engaging in casual chit-chat with others, they preface their own comments with things like, "Well, when Harry and I were getting divorced ten years ago, I blah blah blah" or "back when I was in the Peace Corps, I blah blah blah." I can talk about that second one with some authority, since I've been in the Peace Corps myself, and I've been around those sixty-something folks who served in Ethiopia in 1968 and still can't stop talking about it to this very day.

The thing that's weird for me with this blog is that I really am not, nor do I want to be, the kind of gal who insists on bringing up my own KuKd status at every possible moment, connecting all of my current life experiences to my KuKd losses. And yet, isn't that what this blog is all about? And, aren't I the one who started this thing? And how do I honor my dead fetus and baby without being that person who can't let go and move on? I wonder if it's possible for me to find that balance between sharing my general musings about KuKd, without being the one at the cocktail party who's like:

"I love this Bombay and tonic! Back when I was pregnant with my son Zachary, WHO WAS STILLBORN, BY THE WAY, I never drank this stuff. Oh how I missed it!"

"Really? You've gained ten pounds? So have I, since MY SON WAS STILLBORN."

"No, we don't have kids. Actually, we do have a SON WHO WAS STILLBORN."

"I teach at a community college. Actually, I should really be on prolonged maternity leave right now, but MY SON WAS STILLBORN so I'm not."

A totally unrelated thought: Sarah Jessica Parker annoys me. I wonder if she irritates anyone else.