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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When Plans are Screwed

Greetings, Synthesizers!

In this post, I'm going to try to do what I'm constantly imploring my students to do: synthesize. That is: take multiple sources -

1) Revolutionary Road, the film
2) yesterday's trip to see a mental health counselor

- think about what singular new pattern arises from them, and write about that pattern in a coherent way. Fueled on several gulps of coffee, the summer temperature having not yet soared into the gag-worthy 90s, I feel ready to attack this monstrous critical-thinking task.

Let's start with the film, Revolutionary Road. There were so many things about this movie that struck me as compelling and profoundly thought-provoking. One of those things - the thing I'm going to focus on here - was the PLANS element (there's a reason I'm bolding and capitalizing "PLANS" - wait for it). Kate Winslet is essentially your classic antsy, depressed, bored 1950s housewife, craving adventure and the life she used to have. So she and Leonardo Hottie DiCaprio they make a PLAN to ditch everything, sell the house, pack up their two kids and go to France - not for any particular reason - just for the sake of adventure (I'm sort of picturing Leonardo licking Nutella off of Kate's stomach - now THAT would be the ultimate aventure francaise).

But it turns out - uh oh - Kate is knocked up with PLAN-ruiner number three (er, um, excuse me - I mean child number three). And because Paris is oh-so-primitive, and people just don't HAVE babies in places like Europe, Leonardo decides they can't go. He's going to stay at his ho-hum sales job and Kate isn't going to get her aventure francaise, and they're going to continue living their boring suburban kid-filled lives. They argue about it (well, it's a bit more than "arguing" - think screwing other people and throwing shit at each other), and Kate feels trapped, panicked, all of that - to the point where she ends up creating a dramatic, tragic, last-ditch new PLAN to save her...well...self.

Plans, plans, plans. Making plans, those plans not working out. Making new plans to fill the space where the old plans were. This resonated with me because I am a goddess of plan-making. I also connected with Kate's feeling of trappedness, her need for that France plan, her frantic scramble to another plan to replace that one. Murgdan, everyone's favorite infertility blog-o-beeyatch, wrote a
recent post ending with a most insightful line: "That is what I hate about infertility. No planning is possible in the midst of the greatest planned event ever."

When the kid you had PLANNED for doesn't come, you can keep hoping and planning for that damned kid. But how long do you keep up that mode of thinking? At what point do you give up and switch PLANS?

* * *

This is a decent segue into the second item in part of my synthesizing effort this morning: my trip yesterday to see a shrink.

Some background: I have only seen a shrink one other time in the past decade. That was just after Zachary's dirth, and it only made me realize how little I enjoy sitting across from someone smarter than me and feeling dissected like a quivering, psychologically weak, naked little pearl onion on a cutting board. By the end of that meeting back in 2007, I filed "Seeing a Shrink" away into the "Never Do It Again" compartment inside my head, right alongside "Cooking Indian Food" (face it: making Indian food that actually tastes like real Indian food, as in the $8.99 chicken tikka marsala from the fluorescent-lit Indian take-out place up the street, is near impossible. Tried it, sucked, will never try it again. Same with seeing a shrink.)

Then a month ago, in the midst of my angst over whether or not to go on birth control, I reluctantly scheduled an appointment with a mental health counselor. That was yesterday's "trip to the shrink." I sauntered into the office waiting room breezily and feeling high on myself. Everyone else there looked like people who actually needed psychological help, eyes downcast, those poor sops. I, on the other hand, clearly have my shit together - thank you very much - and was only doing this because my insurance covered it (right? RIGHT?).

Really, I just needed to sort out three few chronic anxieties that have been weighing heavy on my mind lately, and that Kevin's grown tired of hearing about (for the record, he hasn't actually said that - I just can't imagine he can't possibly be already bored with the topic).

I laid these things out for my assigned trim blond counselor, sitting across from her in a large office with sweeping views of downtown:
  • Fear of having a baby.
  • Fear of not having a baby.
  • Recurring nightmare in which I'm lying in a darkened radiology room with an image of my own uterus on the screen, and the Grim Reaper appears with a curved knife and informs me that I'm about to die. 2-3 times a week, at least, and I wake up panting and choking on air.

We never got to the nightmare part. We never even got to the second item: fear of not having a baby. Everything seemed to boil down to that first one: fear of having one. I'm talking intense, borderline irrational terror at the mere thought of a loud, poopy, attention-sucking creature bumping into my feet, tying me down, crushing my soul.

I actually liked this woman right away, even though she was blond and skinny with a great big diamond on her ring finger and all sorts of prestigious plaques on the wall. She gave off a good vibe, and her office walls were a soothing color. I told her the full deal: for the past three years, the PLAN had been to create a child. Not create a child and enter into boring, stay-at-home suburban life, but create a child to drag into my and Kevin's globetrotting, happy-hour loving, rustic-vacationing lifestyle. We felt we could do it, defy all conventions that having a child means you never get to do fun, adult things anymore.

But after February's third pregnancy mishap, I starting undergoing some sweeping mental shift. Suddenly, I saw myself as having a new life PLAN, and that PLAN was to be forever childless, embracing that life instead of the old life with kids that had been the earlier PLAN. Kevin and I both started getting into this concept of being forever childfree. During our road trip to Idaho, we started noticing out at restaurants that anytime you saw a table with two parents and kids, the parents looked like these unhappy husks of human beings, not talking to each other, not smiling, just focusing wearily on "getting through the meal" without some major kid-induced catastrophe. Why would we ever want that? We were enjoying our drinking when we felt like it, screwing when we felt like it, packing up and hitting the road when we felt like it, cussing when we felt like it. And as for this seemlingly prevailing current culture of NEVER hiring a babysitter, NEVER separating from your toddler? All seemed like bullshit to me and Kevin.

So we started excitedly making new PLANS - plans that didn't involve kids. Plans like renting out the main floor of our house to vacationers to make some money. Buying a farm. Getting a second dog. Going to Spain for the summer. And other stuff too. The fear of having a baby came from just that: fear of having our new PLANS interruped, similiarly to how my earlier PLANS - the plans to actually have a baby - were interrupted three times in the past. Thrice, as we say. In short, I was tired of having my PLANS ruined.

So this shrink looked at me and said: "What are 'PLANS' anyway?"

Fucking rhetorical question. For a minute I was worried that this was going to be the type of thing where I have to conjure up some muddled answer on my own, where she doesn't actually tell me anything useful and concrete, and I've wasted my $15 co-pay. But fortunately, she went on, and put this out there:

"You're making plans because you're afraid. PLANS are nothing but a psychological coping mechanism for dealing with trauma. They're a made up concept in our imaginations. There's been a lot of research done on the remarkable ability of the human brain to shut down all feeling, and let analytical, logical, plan-making take over. It's a way to distract yourself. You make plans because they seem like something you can control, and they give you something to focus on besides grief and pain. You got burned on your plans to have kids, so you're making new plans to fill that space in your heart. You resent the idea of a baby shattering these new plans. That's why you're afraid of having a baby."

Obviously, I'm paraphrasing here. That's the basic gist of what she said, over the course of the hour. There were other things that came out too, WAAAAYYY too much to bore you with in one post. Things like: I never properly dealt with that first miscarriage. I'm apparently a queen of dissociation - letting my analytical, PLANNING, computer-sciencey brain-half totally trump my emotional-feeling-hippy-English-teacher brain half because I'm afraid to really feel anything, yada yada.

But it was the making PLANS thing that really stuck with me the most, because it made sense: THAT'S why I'm suddenly so afraid of a baby coming into my life. That would ruin my PLANS, again - these carefully laid-out, childfree PLANS which happily don't involve the risk of losing a child, and which mercifully take my mind off the deeper sludge of unresolved grief still lurking around inside my soul.

A Cliff-Notes version of what's happening inside my head - not bad for a $15 co-pay. I'd say it was worth it this time. Not that I have a clue as to what it all means; I still have the plans, the fears. But it at least gives me clue as to what's happening.

Anyway, see? It's all related: Revolutionary Road, Murgdan's post, and my trip to the shrink. Now I'm off to implement today's PLAN of shaving my armpits and maybe even give those meditation exercises my shrink recommended another try. She told me to repeat the mantra: "I will not be afraid to feel -" which, she claims - is the root cause of my frantic plan-making and fear-of-plan-breaking. I attempted it briefly this morning, sitting on the living rooms floor with my coffee mug balanced on one knee for focus, but all I could think about was bacon double cheeseburgers.

God, I suck at meditating. I think I might be screwed.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Feel the Peanutbutter, Baby!

Dear Little Ones Up in MTV Realworld Penthouse for Bitchin' Babes:

How's baby heaven?  Are you all behaving yourselves? 

For this week's update, I thought I'd explain yet another thing about this godforsaken planet that you're fortunate to miss: Costco.  Now, gather 'round and listen closely.  

Costco is a huge-ass chain store where huge-ass people go in their huge-ass cars to push huge-ass shopping carts through huge-ass aisles stocked with huge-ass quantities of edibles and non-edibles. Need a roll of toilet paper? Too bad. At Costco, you're buying 30 packed together. Need a knifeful of mayonnaise for your deli sandwich? Too bad - you're buying a 3-gallon jug of mayo, so you'd better start brainstorming now for future uses.  Supposedly it saves you money to buy in this manner - gigantic quantities for a lower cost per unit - but of course everyone's too exhausted and high on fluorescent lighting to actually whip out a goddamned calculator and do the math.

Among those goods was a gigantic, supposedly cheaper-than-the-small-size tub of peanutbutter - Adam's All-Natural, which I recently purchased on giddy, Costco-high impulse.  You know: the kind in which the oil separates on top, and you have to stir to mix it with the hardened, dry peanutbutter-matter on the bottom.



What the fuck did I need a gallon-or-more of peanut butter for?   Nothing.  The point is that it was about eight cents cheaper per tablespoon than a regular-sized jar from Safeway, the mere idea of which was so tantalizing that my arms grabbed the jar off the shelf on their own and tossed it triumphantly into my Texas-sized shopping cart, practically without any conscious thought.  I couldn't wait to get home and stir that shit up.

 Normally, you can easily mix the oil in with a few stirs. But it turns out that with a super-human size jug of the stuff, normal mixing mechanisms don't work so well.





Now, Kevin - who was against purchasing such an obscenely large quantity of peanut butter from the beginning (but it's SUCH A GOOD DEAL, I assured him!), had his morning bread toasted and ready to get nutter-buttered. And you can believe it - I was most certainly getting the told-you-so look from across the kitchen. So I decided to take matters into my own hands, literally.

First, I dumped the oil and some of its peanutty accoutrements into a bowl.



Next, I took the plunge, fancying myself as a human-mixer and cursing Costco for false advertising. Nobody warned me it would come to this!





Tebow looked on with great interest, as you can imagine. And after a bit of elbow grease, it was finally ready to go.







Notice the separated oil, which I kept having to reincorporate.  The whole process took about a half hour.

Finally, it resembled real peanut butter.  And with a small amount of hesitation, Kevin proceeded to spread a wee bit of this well-mixed peanut goodness onto his toast.  One tablespoon down; about nine hundred ninety-nine to go.  Boo-ya!

NOTE: Zachary and your babe-alicious dead baby friends - as you can see, Costco has its drawbacks, but in the end can lead to good things.  With this lifetime supply of peanut butter, there will be plenty left for me to drop some off at your doorstep on my way to grown-up heaven, whenever that journey takes place.  Best of all, it will be mixed - so you can not only eat it, but sculpt things with it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hallucinations

Howdy, Readers!


It's another one of those hallucinatory weeks, I guess.

You know that last post I did? The one about KuKd and marriage? Well, apparently I totally made that whole thing up. My apologies. Either that, or it's just further proof that my brain exists on a separate planet from Kevin's, a planet swirling with imaginary clouds of drama and evil little mice whose primary function is to run around and stir up anxiety inside my brain.

The other day, we had a conversation that went something like this, as Kevin scanned the ESPN website on his laptop (primarily paying attention to me, of course - just halfheartedly glancing through the scores out of habit):

Me: "I did a blog post about patching up cracks in our relationship."

K: "What cracks?"

Me: "You know, all of our relationship problems. Like the fact that I haven't been paying enough attention to your job woes. The fact that were aren't totally clinging to each other as we used to. The fact that I have other friends at work and go out for beers with them, without you. The fact that I can't seem to keep the house clean! The fact that I'm not a good, clingy wife! All of those things bother you, remember?"

K: "They do? Hmm. That's news to me. Oh, sweet!"

Me: "Sweet? Sweet what?"

K: "The Mariners won five to three."

Me: "Kevin! This is serious! So you mean, nothing's bothering you about our relationship? You aren't wishing I were sitting at home staring at the door in a French maid outfit each night and a fresh prime-rib dinner already made?"

K: "Nothing's bothering me. You're overthinking. Not that the French made outfit with prime-rib wouldn't be half bad. Fuck."

Me: "Fuck? Fuck what?" (thinking, in a state of mild panic, that he just remembered that big thing that's been bothering him lately)

K: "We're gonna be out of town when the Mariners play Chicago."

Sigh.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

KuKd and Marriage: Patching Up Cracks

Greetings, Inquisitive Guests and KuKd-ers!

I'm suddenly feeling in a girl-talky mood, like we should all be sitting in a circle in our pajamas, drinking wine and lighting candles and sharing deep stories. Let's talk about relationships, shall we?

I think it's worthwhile to talk about marriage in the context of KuKd, because there is NO WAY - I mean no serious way - that the death of a baby can occur without having some effect on the two people who made that baby. I remember reading lots of warnings in the many (ultimately not very helpful) self-help books that people sent me after Zachary died: stillbirth can have a dramatic negative effect on marital relationships.

But those parts of the books - like most parts of those books, in fact - always seemed to be about somebody else entirely, someone less stable than me, someone with a weaker relationship than mine and Kevin's, someone less psychologically grounded and wonderful and reasonable than us. We're solid! I thought. Quit putting ideas into my fragile brain that somehow this crappity-crapola is going to drive a stake through our marriage! Stop angstigating me!

For us, it's always been just go-go-go with our heads up, smiles on. It's an Irish thing, a family thing: no point in slowing down, pausing, and taking a serious analytical look at a marital relationship, especially when everything seems pretty much fine. And self-help books are, more often than not, "fucktarded" (to quote a favorite word of my linguistically brilliant friend Ben) - so why bother listening to them. But lately, these past six months or so, we've had reason to do just that: slow down, pause, and take a serious analytical look at our relationship.

Looking backward into the tunnel of life behind me, focusing specifically on the Monica-Kevin element of it , here's what I see:

First, two years of heady, earthy, happy existence. We met as sweaty Peace Corps volunteers, back when my nails were permanetly crusted with black dirt, underwear consisted entirely of high-rising Hanes bloomers, hair was a permanently tangled mess piled up on my head.

I was instantly attracted to Kevin, because he was SO not what I called a "Josh." That is, a person like Josh - the patchouli-scented, dreadlocked pot-head who I dated in college, and who characterized the general sort of guy I was attracted to in my younger days. Josh (not Kevin, to be clear) was an artsy English major, and insisted on reading his bad poetry out loud to me while I pretended to react with great interest. I didn't have sex in college, ultimately being a bit of a prude in that regard, and deep down in my subconscious growing progressivey tired of the very guys I proclaimed to "like."

So I was thrilled to meet Kevin. Unlike the "Joshes" of the world, Kevin was free-spirited and yet goal-oriented, adventurous and yet just ambitious and logical enough to take him out of the aimless-loser category. His fingernails were clean, his teeth were white, he folded his clothes neatly, he said reasonable things, and he exuded common sense. He was everything I wasn't, and I loved him instantly, feeling more insecure than I'd ever felt, melted into a puddle of goo. I knew I wanted to marry him. Not have babies or anything, just be with him forever, because he was a beacon of manly perfection in my eyes.

I worked really hard to get him, which I finally did. Those two years turned into marriage at a beer garden in Austin -and four subsequent years of traipsing around the globe, backpacking here and there, teaching kids in Kenya, not thinking or brooding or analyzing or worrying - just living. Drinking. Screwing. Traveling. Laughing. Being best friends. I was on the pill the whole time, because kids weren't a part of the picture (yet).

* * *

So, miscarriage at nearly four months gestation (all the ladies in the house who get that, lemme hear you say HOOOOH!), July 2006. This one drew us together, not apart. I repeat: TOGETHER, NOT APART. See? I was right! Self-help books were wrong! Joke's on you, Deborah Whats-Your-Name and your Self-Help Book in Garamond Font. I became the neediest person on the planet, clinging to Kevin, fearful that something heavy and large would fall on his head and kill him. I also became obsessed with getting pregnant again instantly, hoping that a second pregnancy would erase this first little "dead-fetus blip." I distinctly remember waking up wide-eyed in the middle of the night and shaking Kevin awake:

"GET UP! TIME TO SCREW!" (panicked whisper)

"Mmmm?"

"LET'S HAVE SEX RIGHT NOW SO I'M LYING DOWN SLEEPING AFTERWARD AND THE SPERM STAYS UP IN THERE! IF WE DON'T, THEN I MIGHT NEVER GET PREGNANT AGAIN AND I'LL HAVE TO ACTUALLY THINK ABOUT THIS MISCARRIAGE!"'

"Mon, it's two in the morning. Go back to sleep."

I'd even try pressing my backside against his crotch, spooning into him in hopes that it would generate some "midnight wood," but it rarely worked. I think he got a little bit tired of that part, the irriationally pining for a baby just weeks after losing a fetus, but didn't mind the clinginess so much. He's a guy. If there's another thing I've picked up on, it's that guys (even the most progressive-minded Obama-voter types) secretly like it when women eagerly fawn over them.

* * *

Months later, all of that clinging and pining after Kevin finally did result in a sperm-meet-egg situation (enter Zachary). And when Zachary died in August 2007, guess what: still no chasm in the marriage! Quite the opposite. We were drawn together even closer, pure and simple (once again: Monica = right, self-help books = wrong). I was glued to Kevin like a magnet to a fridge. Oh, things weren't perfect by any means. He was working evenings almost every weeknight, and I resented that fact, spending many a lonely night eating cereal with my dog on the front porch, turning on Jane's Addiction and crying on the futon, wishing as hard as I could wish that things were different.

It wasn't until right around August 2008, almost exactly a year later, that things changed. I suddently felt more okay than I'd felt that entire year, as though I'd shed some kind of snakeskin of depression and emerged as a sparkly new person, revved up and ready to embrace life. I didn't mind Kevin's work schedule anymore, wasn't up waiting for him upon his return, staring at the door and drooling.

Maybe it was a timing thing; perhaps "one year" marks some sort of psychological finishline where the hurt gets buried another few feet inside, the surface less raw. Quite simply, I had adapted to this unwanted-and-yet-pretty-darned-good-life-in-its-own-way- throwing myself headfirst into writing (including, yes, this very blog), filling up my social calendar with beers and outings and dinners and late nights at the office.

And low and behold, that's right around the time when some barely perceptible cracks began to form in our relationship, like tiny branching threads on an otherwise smooth drywall surface. We sort of stopped seeing each other. I mean, physically, we saw each other. I saw him walk in the door at 10pm, five minutes before my own bedtime, and briely saw him breathing the darkness as I got up at six the next morning to go to work. But we kind of stopped being attuned to each others' needs, really paying attention to each other.

For example, he was hating his job. It was wearing him down - the job itself, the commute, everything. He was trying to write a book, and not getting very far. These things were getting him down, and I wasn't noticing and supporting as much as I should have noticed and supported. There were things I needed from him too - I won't go into all of those - and he wasn't noticing and giving as much as I wanted him to.

And how does this all fit into KuKd? Well, I'm not going to pretend that I'm clinical psychologist with all the answers to everything. What I will say is this: KuKd switched me over into serious, hardcore survival mode - which is actually a pretty solitary mode when you think about it. And when I wasn't hanging with Kevin on weeknights, I had to turn to other passions to help me make it through - things like writing, like blogging, like drinking with other friends. Which, subsequently, made me rely on Kevin less for my basic psychological needs, and just generally not be there for him as I was in the past. I got distracted with life, with surviving, with thriving in my now childless world.

Oh, we're not getting divorced or anything. It's not the end of the world. It's just that we've had to lately take out those little spackling tools for drywalling, and patch things up, catching cracks early, fixing them before they can grow into deeper chasms. This is a first for us, having to work at our relationship. It was so easy in the past, the drywall of our marriage so smooth (okay, I'm already annoying myself with overuse of that euphemism). We've had some conversations here and there, communicating not a hundred-percent but much more than we used to. Not saying everything, but saying the things that matter.

I'll end this post with an upbeat anecdote, one of those little moments that remind me that through it all, Kevin and I are still best friends; that, in spite of myself, my VAST imperfections as a wife and human being, we still know and love each other as only a husband and wife can:

Last week, I was feeling incredibly frustrated by my writing project, by my inability to weave my 3-year KuKd odessy into a coherent story with a beginning and end, by my growing tired of editing and revising and dipping back into this ultimately painful segment of my life. An agent that I really thought would accept my book project, that had sent me a really eager and hopeful letter, ultimately turned it down. It might seem like a small deal to others, but to me, it was huge -because writing a story has filled this tremendous gap in my hear these past 1.5 years, and to have it go nowhere was too much to bear. I felt like a sucker for believing she would believe in it.

So I e-mailed Kevin this long, rambling, whiney, gloomy message about it, and what I got back was the loveliest, most perfectly crafted and supportive words I could possibly get - not too long, just saying the right amout:


Wish I had more time to write. All I can say is that the whole process fucking sucks. You need to relax and put the book aside. Don't touch it, look at it, or pitch it to anyone for three months. Then let's revisit it. Gotta go - let's hit the tavern tonight for beers. I love you, and you've written a beautiful story.
heart, me

And, what's more, he showed up that night with a bouquet of lillies.

See? Perfect combation of rational (he's right - I need to relax and put the writing aside) and friviolous-but-needed (flowers). Setting his own needs aside - his shitty-ass job - and paying attention to me when I really need it. All of those things made me feel instantly better, reminding me not only that things are okay deep down, but that it's worth making sure they stay that way. That is, it's worth patching up those cracks as they surface, even in spite of myself, ever-consumed with filling up spaces in my soul with beautiful projects and people and thoughts. I need to slow that part down and make sure I'm there for Kevin when he needs me too.

Because I'm sure not going to be one of those statistics that proves the self-help books are right.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Two Years...And Why?

Greetings, Blog-o-Readers...

Reporting to you live from the thrilling environs of...my living room! My dog is snoring; can you hear him? I'll try to talk over him.

Tonight, I had beers with three other dead-baby mommas. We met at a dimly lit tavern with rock-n-roll blaring in the background, and drank amber-colored beers while telling tidbits of our stories. We all experienced an infant's dirth (birth + death) at various times. Mine was the longest ago, I realized during the course of the evening: in August it will have been two years. This chronological fact hit me, or sort of sank into me slowly like bad Uzbek vodka made of fermented onions (I only know that beverage from intimate, unsavory experience), and three words dragged themselves across my frontal lobe:

Holy freakin' wow.

Two years? How can time melt away so quickly, propelling us forward (and memories backward) so imperceptibly? At one point during the evening, I distinctly heard myself using the past tense more than I used to, while the other gals were using more present. Me saying something sucked, them saying something sucks. As a writing teacher, perhaps I'm just more aware of things like verb usage than I used to be. Just a simple, subtle difference in grammatical choice, and yet - to me - a significant one.

I had this sudden, crystal clear sense of being not where I was a year ago, two years ago, even six months ago. Something has pushed me forward and away, dulling my sense of past loss. Thank goodness, really, our brains are designed that way. Can you imagine if we were all permanently stuck in Shitty-Moodville for the rest of our lives?

On the other hand, I felt that same magical, emotional whoosh that comes whenever I meet a fellow dead-baby-momma, that electifying sense of connection. It's how I imagine it must feel to be a soldier having just returned from the Iraq War, then to run into another fellow soldier in the sporting goods aisle at Wal-Mart. You look up and sense an instant, kindred bond: we both get it. As the evening progressed, I found comfort, as I have before, in hearing stories of realities that almost precisely mirrored (SEE? I just did it again! Past tense!) mine: the fear of personal extinction. The convoluted, mysterious nature of grief as an emotion, how it really isn't an emotion in and of itself - like happiness or sadness - but rather a term coined by someone long ago to encapsulate that big, messy ball of unpredictable mental and emotional glop that comes after a traumatic event.

It's just different from how it was last year, and the year before that. Death isn't such a big, heavy bowling ball inside me, but now broken up into tiny shards and absorbed into system, pricking me at odd times, changing me in ways that I can't define just yet. I mean, I can speculate on how KuKd has changed me, but it's all just that: speculation.

Then, during my uphill-but-beer-tinged-and-therefore-not-so-bad bike ride home, I began thinking about why I do this blog, two years later. Why?

Oh, it's a thought that's crossed my mind before. This blog won't/can't last forever. Those big-time bloggers who blog for the sake of...well...blogging? People like Stirrup Queen who create these immense blog-o-empires, again for the sake of...well...creating a blog-o-empire? I couldn't do that. I'd get tired of hearing myself talk, fed up with thinking of meaningful things to say. Kevin said it nicely during our sojourn in Idaho: "It's good we don't have Internet in this cabin, detracting us from just living our lives." Deep down, I know he's right: there comes a point when you spend so much time talking about living, that you cease to live.

So, this blog, and the question of: why?

I do this blog because the truth is - although baby-death takes up a mere fraction of the brain space it used to, it's certainly still in there, in me. The effects are long-term and mysterious, and I think worth dissecting and analyzing for the glorious sake of overthinking (if nothing else). Also maybe - just maybe - for the sake of reflecting some realities that are more common that everybody thinks, therefore helping somebody else feel less isolated and alone out there. If I can reach out and do that for a KuKd momma or two, then the whole dang blog is worth it to me. Honestly, I had trouble finding a sounding board that made sense to me back in the days of doom, when I really needed it. I sort of felt like a KuKd outsider, even being KuKd myself.

Just as a small, quick example of something I can easily and readily still talk about: marital relationships. I could do a whole post, even a series of posts, on how baby-death affects marriage in the long-term. Specifically, how it has affected my relationship with Kevin, brought us together in some ways and yet put a strain on us in others, and made us have to work harder than ever before at keeping ourselves intact (that very post will be coming soon-ish, because I'm actually curious to know others' views on this scintillating subject).

Sexuality, too. You KNOW I can talk about that 'till the cows come home.

So, my plan is to keep spewing out thoughts here until I'm dry as the Sahara desert. The time will come - I'm just not sure when.

Oh, and tonight I was greeted with the most entertaining comment on my blog guestbook I've had in a long time, second only to another post entitled "Jesus is Abled" (that's a whole 'nother post):

"My non-juicy tidbit is I really want you to get pregnant and have a live baby. Really bad."

For some reason, I just loved that comment. It seemed so innocently, unabashedly, purely hopeful and excited. And to have someone wanting you to get pregnant, somebody besides your near-retirement-aged-mother-who-doesn't-have-grandkids, well - it tickled my spirit. For the record, pregnancy: it's not out of the picture, just off to the side for a bit. Off the map. Off the Map of Hawaii, no pun intended.

I'm just hoping the person who left this guest-book post can come over to babysit from time to time, because given the hardcore caffeine and booze habits I've picked up over the past few years (and that I suspect would readily bounce back even after being a Good Pregnant Mormon-like Girl for 10 months of potentially doomed gestation), I'm going to need my nights out. Alone. Without a baby.

Oh, and hey - a few logistical announcements for anyone who cares:

1) If you'd like to show off your knocked-down hunk, e-mail me his photo for the next gallery: monica@exhalezine. It's a risk to have your hunk's hotness compared to others, I'll admit that. But look: I'm a firm believer in taking an already twisted and dangerous reality and making it even twisted-er and dangerous-er. And don't think I'm not keenly, achingly, resentfully aware that my OWN precious hunk is practically in last place in the current gallery. We're both dealing with that with the help of an expensive therapist and lots of hard liquor. As long as he has more votes than Mister Absolute Penis, then I'm cool.

2) For the Knockalicious Blogs list, if you have a blog or website to add - or a description of one of those, send that my way too. I'll be updating that after I finish watching the entire first season of The Wire. This isn't any kind of fancy or offical list of blogs-sanctioned-by-the-Mother-Virgin-Mary. It's just a way to spread the word and share the love, that's all.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hey Babylost Mommas! Read This!

Hey Mommas!

Some of you old-timers might recall me writing about a "healing retreat for infant loss" that I reluctantly attended over a year ago, about eight or nine months after my Ultimate Shitty Event. This was for women who had experienced stillbirth or infant death-after-birth. I went into it with this cynical attitude, somehow pre-convinced that "retreats" are generally lame and weird - like with summer-camp slop for dinner and people doing teambuilding games. I've never been into all that support-groupy-touchy-feely hogwash.

But man oh goddamn man, was I ever glad I did.

A babylost friend of mine here in Seattle couldn't have said it any better: losing a baby is an isolating experience, period. Doesn't matter what you read or who you talk to: it's still just you inside of your head, swimming around in there, trying to find your way. So, to be suddenly thrown into a goregous, intimate setting with a group of similar-aged, similar-minded women WHO TOTALLY 100% GET WHAT THE FUCK EACH OTHER IS TALKING ABOUT (that's key) was...well...it was remarkable. It's what the retreat was all about: connecting and understanding.

We did what most women love to do: talked a lot. Cried a bit too, to a cathartic (not nauseating) degree. We shared our stories, and took as much time as we needed to do it. We listened. We ate together. Slept. Wandered. Did yoga. Relaxed. Thought. Looked at the mountains. The best part was that it was mildly structured, but not overly, annoyingly structured. It wasn't a facilitator-led, counselor type of thing run by some woman with a PhD in clinical psychology. It was just a bunch of equals - women coming together - connecting and forming awesome friendships, and just mellowing out in this goregous and peaceful place.

Of course, at the time I was a follower, just going along for the (what turned out to be amazing) ride. Little did I know that I would eventually be compelled to spearhead the next one. Of the original group from last year, some people have had babies, and are in different places in their lives. I on the other hand, have a dog and new espresso machine, neither of which is as much of a distraction as baby would surely be. So, I'm in more of position to organize a second retreat this year. I feel passionate about it, the goodness of it.

SO...that aforementioned babylost friend of mine - the one who made the comment about stillbirth being isolating - is teaming up with me to organize the second (maybe annual?) healing retreat for this year. It's coming up in October. ANYONE CAN COME - not just people from Seattle - EVEN YOU!!!

Well, almost anyone. This retreat is for women who have recently (as in the last five years or so?) lost an infant just before or after birth. That is loosely defined as having lost a baby to stillbirth or post-birth death, for lack of a better phrase. This is not at all to say that the infertility and miscarriage sets shouldn't have and don't deserve the retreat experience - but we wanted to keep this retreat small, and decided to make those our so-called "requirements." If this year's goes well, we could think about expanding it next year to include miscarriage and infertility subgroups. Don't hold me to that - I'm just saying, the possibility is out there.
It's not just for us Pacific Northwesters, either. It is my sincere hope that some of you regulars out there -you know who you are - think about attending, even if you have to fly out here to Seattle. IT'S WORTH IT. I repeat: IT'S WORTH IT. And if you can help get the word out to other babylost mommas, even better. Check out the retreat deets, buy your ticket and c'mon out!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kukd Folk Music Series: Tracks 2-3

Greetings, Peeps!

Sorry for the double-whammy, two-day-in-a-row posting spree. Overwhelming, I know. Fear not; there will be a several-day hiatus after this as I turn my brain away to other things for a few days.

First, track 2-3 of the KuKd Folk Music Series have been oh-so-professionally recorded using my extra special sound equipment (aka: cheap digital camera balanced on top of a stack of notebooks) and are now available. There are 4 total songs floating around in my head - and I'm thinkin' that's PO-LENTY for getting my point(s) across. Track 4 will emerge later on. After that, I'm betting I will have scraped all dead-baby-related musical configurations out of my system and be ready to move onto other topics. From then on, it's going to be odes to Cosco, an anti-arm-fat campaign tune, and other musical randomness as I continue to brush up on my guitar twanging skills.

A bit of background on these tracks. Each of 1 through 3 presents a very different angle, I guess you could call it - a different thought pattern that did/does go through my head at some point during my KuKd journey. Track 1 was very much about the baby, and Track 4 will be too. Messages to him, I suppose; to all of our lost babies living up in the Baby Heaven Penthouse.

Tracks 2-3, what I'm posting here, are very much about me, and not so much about the baby. Because really - going back to that empty tee-pee syndrome, what's left when the baby is gone? YOU. Or in this case, me. You're sitting there blind-sided and you have to just deal with it. No crying baby to distract you, sorry.

As for me, I spent a lot of time dealing with the void by turning my focus inward, back to me - and not always in a good and productive way. I started assaulting my body with more caffeine and booze than I know to be healthy - and still do. I also threw myself headfirst into all sorts of random, time-consuming, wholly me-focused and unnecessary projects (you're lookin' at one of them, dahling), putting up a wall of forced bravado that lingers to this day. Really, I couldn't imagine being not fine forever, so I told myself all sorts of stories about really being fine - about how I wasn't meant to be a mother anyway (yes, the very things we don't allow OTHERS to tell us. As I've said before, I think self-ASSvice is acceptable; isn't it?).

Hence these tunes.

TRACK 2: "What I Told Myself"
Track 3: "Coffee and Vino"

Enjoy, or don't enjoy. Either way, OH, AND HEY! You know that Knockalicious Blogs tab at the top? Look up there. See it? Yeah, that. That's a big old list of cool blogs and websites that I haven't updated in a while. I'd like to actually organize those things by topic, and add more to the list. I've gotten a few requests lately for that - and what the hey, why not.

SO, if you'd like your blog/website to be added there, E-MAIL ME at monica at exhalezine dot com, and up it will go. It can be knockalicious in anyway, but should relate (even tenuously) to...well, ya know...whatever the hell this blog is about. So, no cooking blogs or hairy-male-butt-photo-gallery blogs.

Happy listening!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Boundaries

Greetings, Naked and Clothed Ones!

Thank you, world, for your overwhelmingly positive and supportive response to my Pocahontas-Traipsing-Around-The-Wilderness gallery. I should go in there on Photo Shop and draw myself a bathing suit made of twigs and mud. It's really how I felt: as though I were living some primitive fantasy in which K and I are cave dwellers, hunting fish from the lake with our bare hands and sleeping on a bed of pine needles (ouch).

There were a few mildly-raised eyebrows that resulted from the photos posted there, as best characterized best by a good friend of mine: "I can't beLIEVE you posted NAked PICtures of yourself on the INternet! You better save them in a secret file in case your PARents find them on your comPUTer!"

Ahhh, a shocked and cautionary reaction that only those closest to you - your mother and your best friends - can comfortably express. Where would we be without those sorts of friends? Kind of like one of those, "your nipple is showing, my dear" comments. As with a lot of things, that particular post - and my friend's goodhearted remark - did get me thinking about deeper philosophical things.

Allow me to explain. But first, put on your scuba diving gear, folks, or pull up a chair at your favorite French cafe with a philosophical beret on your head, and get yourself a strong espresso. THIS IS DEEP, man. Deep.

To me, my friend's reaction was a reminder of two things:

1) The deep thread of moral conservatism that runs through America (seriously! It's everywhere!) and that I tend to forget about; and

2) The fixation our society has on rules, on constructs, on expectations that we live within those boundaries we've been taught to believe in. I say that not in a bad way (well, sometimes-sort-of), just in a way-it-is kind of way. Ours is a rules-hungry culture, with long-held beliefs about what men and women should and shouldn't do.

And yes - when you push those boundaries, you're going to raise some eyebrows.

One thing I've come to realize about myself is that I am not a person who hungers for rules. For better or worse, I like to push the envelope, bang against the glass walls of expectation - the "rules" - that hover around in certain social settings, and I don't have much of a problem with raising eyebrows when I do it. It's a trait that has also colored the way I've dealt with watching my parenthood-dreams melt away down the drain-pipe over the last three years.

At the time when Kevin and I begin thinking of having children, we were living entirely within what I refer to as "the boundaries." That is, we were doing precisely what everyone around us – our families, our friends, society at large – expected: married. Solvent. Master's degrees. Progressive-minded. Great jobs supposedly doing good things for the world. Fun, loving relationship. Attempting to multiply - which EVERYONE approves of. Our sex life was what I imagine the vast majority of American married couples have: neither rip-roaringly adventurous nor achingly dull. Conventional, predictable, and sometimes repetitive, but not bad.

And you know what? Life within this reality felt unquestionably fine.

But when the baby prospects disappeared, suddenly here we were - sitting gloomily and shell-shocked within the construct of marriage and financial stability that we'd worked so hard to build around ourselves. And for what? For whom? If not for raising a brood of equally progressive-minded and educated children like ourselves, devoting our lives to them from this point forward, then why?

It's this sense of being inside of an empty tee-pee, a perfectly stable construction of baby-happy reality with no baby to show for it, that's led me to fill that space with other things in life (like this blog, and the pictures on it). It's one of the common empty feelings felt, I would imagine, by KuKd and infertility-fighting mommas around the world, I would bet. This experience has showed me that the ever-touted marriage/parenthood/solvency equation doesn't always equal eternal satisfaction, no matter how fervently and religiously our world tells says it does. I also discovered how little control we really have over biological forces, and how bad things can happen to anyone - even supposedly "good" people who live within the boundaries our society has set up.

More important, from my KuKd experience I took away a more deeply resonating message that I carry with me still: that our lives are short and precious, and that every day of life should be lived as one's last. That - despite the losses of my past - it is up to me to make the most of what I have, seeking joy and vitality where I can, shedding my own fears for the sake of living. It's this principle of living life to its fullest - even when that means taking risks - that guided my initially reluctant decision to: 1) get naked; 2) get photographed; and 3) post my arse-crack online.

Who's going to come after me for that? Jesus? My grandmother? I doubt it. Morally conservative people who believe that a naked woman is something to get squeamish about? Maybe. I'll keep a look-out for them.

Posting arse-pics on the Internet is a risk. It's a risk that I accept, because it feels good - and because getting comfortable with my own body and sexuality has been part of what's filled that empty "tee-pee" I mentioned earlier. I could give you a long list of big and small examples of this anti-conventional-behavior pattern of mine has both helped and hurt me over the years. In this case, I'm going with it.

Now, for the record - I DO have a job, and it's a job that I love, with people that I love. I have mixed feelings about people at my workplace seeing my arse-crack online. Not a complete and terrifying concern, but enough of a kernel of risk-awareness to know not to leave that particular post up forever. So I'll let it sit there and soak up the sun for a bit longer, and then take it down for a while, perhaps letting it reemerge in a year or so. ;-)

Now, off to see what other boundaries I can tinker with.