Sunday, February 28, 2010
There's a baby shower coming up, and a conundrum in my head to work through. Why can't things be simple and easy, without conundrums?
Feel free to be troubled by that term: baby shower. I know it pains some readers to think about, because it pained me for the longest time. I get that. What other words could be used to describe this event?
For this one in particular, it's a small gathering of uber-high-quality, intelligent, kind and compassionate women from a range of generations - my friends and mother and mother's friends - coming together to eat crab salad on croissants. It's being organized by Jen, the incredible friend that I first called upon learning of Zachary's in-utero demise. The baby-gift-giving concept was making me vomit-worthily anxious, so I stole my friend K's idea of a participatory "book shower:" in lieu of gifts, everyone bring a favorite kids' book with a note inscribed for this unborn baby's first library, and we'll all go around and explain the meaning of the book we brought.
All of that, I'm cool with. Excited about, really. It's the conundrum of where/how the past fits in with this event, or if there's a even place at all for it, that's been on my mind lately.
* * *
A wee bit of background, of course, before returning to the conundrum at hand:
For every calamity that can happen to a person, it seems, someone has written a self-help book about it. And for miscarriage and stillbirth, that definitive book would probably have to be Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby - what's essentially known to be THE Lonely Planet Guide to the Weird, Mind-Trippy Land of Dead-Babystan. If you're like me, you've probably thumbed through pages of it. A well-meaning friend or family member might have shipped a shiny new copy to you via FedEx, or perhaps a grief counselor slid this decent-sized book across the table in your direction. And if you're like me, you probably glanced through the pages with mixed emotion.
First, you wondered crabbily what useful things a PhD-holder named Deborah Davis could possibly tell you. "Deborah Davis" was decidedly not the name of your cool, authoritative older sister who gets it - but rather one of your mother's friends who wore waist-high jeans and made casseroles with french-fried onions in the 1980s. Yet, you also felt strangely comforted by the thought of a PhD-holder named Deborah Davis standing behind you, whispering words of guidance into your ear. Even the cover of this book - sort of a light peach with soothing fonts - was nice to look at. It felt like something official and organized, giving you hope that society was with you on this strange journey, holding your hand and telling you what to do and think, warning you of what was ahead.
At least, this is how it was for me, dipping into this book.
I've pretty sure I've got a copy of it still lying around, dusty and crammed into a storage box in the sagging clapboard garage behind our house - although I've not cracked it open in a year or two. There's one chapter toward the end that I've got half a mind to read right now - and if it weren't 3:00 in the morning and drizzling outside, I might even throw on a sweatshirt over the one I'm wearing, wander out there in my socks while my dog stares at me dumbfoundedly, and dig around for it - just to get to that chapter.
It's called something like "Coping with Subsequent Pregnancies," a section I recall not only ignoring back when I was routinely skimming pages of this book, but feeling mysteriously irritated by it. How dare they include a chapter that had zero relevance in my life, that - in some dull and undefinable way - hurt to even glance at!
* * *
Now, back to the conundrum, to the reason why I feel suddenly compelled to dip into that book again - into that chapter in particular - with the dim hope for some useful insight. Being 37 weeks into what Deborah Davis would probably consider a classic example of a "subsequent pregnancy after stillbirth," I guess I'm not surprised that something as commonplace as a baby shower might trigger a bit of mental weirdness.
The conundrum, the question here, is: is there a place for remnants of the past at this baby shower? A place for the memory of Zachary, the theoretical older brother of the not-yet-born infant whose pending birth is bringing all of these amazing women, shiny new books, delicious crab salad together under one roof? He would have been two-and-a-half years old right now. What about the 4-month "male fetus" before Zachary, that abstract concept of a baby who would have been almost four years old today? Can either of them be honorably mentioned at this buoyant celebration of a new life to come, or will their memory cast a visible downer over the entire affair?
I don't know, of course, because baby-loss - and pregnancy thereafter - is like the Wild West: land without rules or conventions or rituals. You bumble along for years and years, making up rules of social etiquette as you go along - hoping you don't offend or baffle or alienate anyone in the process.
What I do know is that memories and feelings of the past, of Zachary's in-utero life in particular, of the motherhood-fantasy I'd associated with him - crop up at the oddest times nowadays, like when I'm thinking about baby showers. I feel overly reflective sometimes as I try to connect those old memories to this new stage in my life. It's cool to imagine such a thing, that our experiences in life are more than mere unrelated dots on a long line, which we pass through chronologically like unthinking robots, never looking backward or forward. Wouldn't a Zen-Buddhist guru-type advocate such a circular and reflective way of living?
So, the baby shower.
It was Jen, this very same Jen, that organized the one for Zachary two years ago - except that Zachary's, of course, was abruptly cancelled. For the past few weeks, I've had this strange urge to use this upcoming baby shower as an chance to honor and remember not just the new baby supposedly on the way, but the old baby who never got the baby shower. And not just honor the babies, but the "me" that I was back then, who never got the baby shower either. How wrecked and pathetic I was at the time, how inconsolable, how unfair life felt to me.
They're on my mind, that old injured me and the baby that didn't make it - but, as I said - it's not clear to me if there's a place for those haggard relics of the past at this sparkling and hopeful new baby shower coming up. There is, of course, the danger of turning into one of "those people" who can't stop dwelling on their own calamaties, who are always pouncing on opportunities to publicize and dramatize the woes that they cling to. God, how I fear becoming one of "those people." So I've been pondering more subtle possible ways to slip it into the baby shower:
-raise my glass of sparkling cider and bang my fork against it, and demand to make a toast "to Zachary," hoping that people don't squirm uncomfortably in their seats
-covertly write his name in the sheet-cake frosting using my index finger, licking the icing off my hand before anyone sees me do it
-duck into the bathroom by myself for a quick bawl-session on my own
-wander off and gaze pensively out the window, hoping some deep thoughts of the past just come to me naturally
That's it - I'm out of ideas.
Maybe there IS no place for that past here, at least not publicly. Maybe I should do what everyone else is doing - my parents, my in-laws, my friends: keep my eyes trained forward, focused on the current baby in my belly, and quit bringing up the cobwebby past that holds no relevancy in this new life to come. Just chillax and enjoy my baby shower - the books and the crab salad and the company - being surrounded by amazing friends and family. Revel in it for the happy little isolated "dot" that it is, and stop thinking so hard. Stop looking back at past dots and trying to make sense of it all. Maybe it would be considered bad form to do otherwise.
That's cool; I can do that - keep my own little conundrums private inside my head, and grapple with them there. I suppose that's where grief always leads a person anyways: to a place where you're left to handle lingering thoughts and feelings on your own.
But MAN OH MAH, it sure would be nice if there were another way. If I get my act together this morning, maybe I will make it out to that sagging clapboard garage afterall, and dig up old Deborah Davis' stillbirth bible. Maybe she's got some useful gems to dish out on this subject.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
It was exciting to discover a few days ago that someone had found my blog with the search terms "knocked up bitch."
I had to assume that my blog wasn't quite the thing they were looking for, if you know what I mean. Nonetheless, they did stick around for several minutes (it's almost frightening, the information I have access to). I wonder if this particular Internet-trawler learned anything new in the process, if they liked what they saw here, if they came away with a new view of us knocked-up bitches. If the titillating topic of pregnancy loss can spark even the faintest interest in what I presume to be a fat, horny middle-aged guy who looks like the stapler dude from Office Space, well, the entire KuKd communty can be proud. Right? Can't we?
Warning to my IF/TTC peeps: there's a bit of baby talk here today. Just some musings, some gross bodily things. I say this with full understanding: who in crap's name am I to complain about anything pregnancy-related? At least I'm pregnant at all. Touche.
But things happen with this now 30-week-pregnancy like with any other pregnancy - boring things, commonplace things, non-KuKd-related things - as much as I'd like to think my heightened KuKd status makes this pregnancy somehow different and more interesting than the norm. And sometimes I get the urge to spout off about those things here, even knowing it's not fun for everyone to read about. So my apologies in advance to my pregnancy-sensitive sistas.
There was a bit of a scare this past week - some weird cramping and clear, amnio-like discharge going on. There, I said it! DISCHARGE! Kevin absolutely positively loves it when I say that word - discharge - especially when preceded by "vaginal."
VAGINAL DISCHARGE! KEVIN, COME CHECK IT OUT!
It's almost as much of a turn-on as when I say HEMORRHOID!
KEVIN, MY HEMORRHOID IS BOTHERING ME!
(which I announced loudly from the bedroom yesterday morning while blotting my daily torrential nosebleed with an already-used Kleenex)
Poor Kevin, with his nosebloody, hemorrhoidy, vaginal dischargy, blood-engorged, gassy (there's that, too), extremely-vocal-about-all-of-the-above wife of whale-like proportions. Please send him flowers or tickets to March Madness.
Anyway, the cramps. I called the consulting nurse to relay my changing bodily symptoms, and was ordered to come in for a strangely named "non-stress test." The "non-stress test," which - ironically - is stressful just like any other procedure involving checking the aliveness of one's fetus, requires hooking suction-cuppy things up to my belly and listen for fetal activity and peering into my cervix. All of this is to make sure I'm not going into early labor.
(I was secretly hoping I was, in fact, going into early labor - so that I might be prescribed indefinite "bed rest," which - in my twisted fantasy world - involves lounging around in my pajamas for two months and watching movies while Kevin feeds me ice cream)
Of course, I was fully braced for catastrophe as I drove to the clinic for my stressful non-stress test, with Kevin and my mother calling me at regular intervals to check in. That's where KuKd colors pregnancy a slightly different shade than just pure pastel-rainbow: more like a black and gray experience with swaths of crimson-fear.
But everything turned out to be fine, so I was given a pat on the head and sent home, look around in wonderment and think to myself: wow! Things actually seem miraculously, statistically significantly, counter-intuitively okay! Now what do I do with myself?
* * *
I'm making the switch!
I was trying to remember what commercial(s) that's from. Some cable company? Cell phone? Diet plan? Anyway, I'm making it the switch.
Any of you who have ever lost a pregnancy, and then experienced subsequent pregnancies, will get what I mean here: during that subsequent pregnancy, you become like this high-risk specimen for the medical community to examine and monitor and write copious notes about. You feel dully afraid just about all the time, and your immediate family - females (well, mothers) especially - feed off your dull fear and cycle it back in your direction, spinning you into an even bigger ball of fear. And you suck up that extra attention like a needy attention whore - for a while anyway.
But then you start to feel tired of being a needy attention whore. You start getting bored with your own drama. If someone suggests another ultrasound, you feel yourself nodding a bit too quickly in agreement. If someone asks you questions and studies your charts, you soak it up like good rum punch, reveling in the spotlight of being such a high-risk specimen that smart people are worried about. And you start to get irritated with yourself, with this identity you've taken up.
Alas - for me, anyway - the novelty wore off about two months ago. I really started wanting to make the switch over to normal knocked-uppage. That is: back to thinking, talking, acting, and being treated like an ordinary pregnant gal with ordinary concerns - not like this big huge walking web of emotion and anxiety and potential dead-baby-ness.
So, after my December ultrasound, I told my Fetal Heart Specialist Guru Doctor that I was ready to MAKE THE SWITCH: the switch back over to my regular nice-lady doctor, the switch to the normal pregnancy track from here on out. Basically that means fewer visits to the doctor, fewer screenings, more relaxation. It means - on paper anyway- that everyone switches over to the mentality of "Monica is a normal pregnant person" instead of "Monica is high-risk specimen."
So we've all made the switch together: me, Kevin, my doctors. And ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh... I feel better already.
God help me if this one gets effed up between now and nine weeks from now.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Twenty-four hours after the baby died, Kevin and I were lying on our sides on the basement floor with our fingers interlocked, staring at each other like shell-shocked soldiers. Technically I was still pregnant, I guess. The big belly was there with a six-pound something inside it. But that six-pound something was a lifeless, mysterious lump. What the HECK does one do in a state like that? Watch TV? Bake cookies? Weed in the garden?
Well, different things.
For K, it was a basement-improvement rampage: racing to Home Depot, dropping several thousand dollars on new sub-flooring and wall paint and light fixtures. He became like this crazed home-remodeling-madman-on-crack. Or speed. Basically I just sort of sat there with my pregnant-dead-baby-stomach-lump and watched him work. How could I argue with channeling one's grieving energy into productive activities that boosted our home value?
For me, in the days immediately following Zach's cold delivery into the world, it was standing beneath a bare light-bulb in flannel pajamas, slathering acrylic paints onto gigantic stretched canvases. K - bless his heart- was the one who had prompted me to dive back into the paints, which I hadn't touched in a year or so. He suggested I create some pieces to embellish our soon-to-be-remodeled-basement, and even picked up some canvases for me at the art store.
I worked fervently for a full day as Kevin hammered in sub-floor tiles with just as much fervor. We were both in some kind of weird, trance-like state, our hands working, our minds focused on the task at hand. We didn't play any music, because all music - Janes Addiction, especially, but really any music at all - was making me cry. Just worked silently like robots. I distinctly recall throwing paint in every direction - slopping, slathering, pelting it on without regard for technique or boundaries or whatever mess I might be creating. It was like a fifth grade art project to the nth degree.
By the time I'd finished all my paint-slinging, about twenty hours after I'd started, I was covered in blues and reds and oranges, damp paper-towels all over the floor with speckles of paint on them, cups of color-tinted water everywhere. We ordered - and I STILL remember this with crystal clarity - pepperoni pizza from Domino's with a coupon. It was almost ten at night. The floor was done, and K and I worked together to hang my new "stillbirth art" on the wall.
I felt better, kind of, about the world - for the moment, anyway.
* * *
I haven't thought about those paintings much since then. They've been hanging in the basement since the baby died, sort of neglected and forgotten. It's not like I'm a trained artist, so everything I produce is totally blocky, choppy and amature-ish - not something I would hang on the main floor above the fireplace mantel.
But they're on my mind again now as Kevin begins "stage two" of our big basement remodel, which requires us to strip the basement walls down and clean out shop. I'm thinking about these paintings, wondering what to DO with them. Keep them? If so, where? Give them away? Store them?
For now, I'm taking pictures of them and just thinking about them. They're dated August 25th, 2007 - the week that we lost Zach. Which - in my mind - makes them bona fide "amateur stillbirth art," if there is such a thing:
I wonder what a psychiatrist would say about them, if anything. Why do we do the things we do when we lose someone or something we love? Why did I paint those particular things, with those particular colors? Fish? Flowers? Butterflies? They seem...happy to me now, like this sort of jubilant kiddie-art that might go into a child's bedroom. Why would THAT come out of me and not something dark and macabre, like skulls on a black background?
What sorts of things do other stillbirth-mommies paint? And why? I guess I'm just curious about art as a healing thing, why and how we do it, where in our brain it comes from, what it says about us.
I wish I had some deep psycho-analytical answer, but dude. You know I don't. :-) Right now the paintings are stacked up on the floor while my dog paces around them suspiciously and sniffs them. Maybe he'll come up with the answer using that poodle-westie nose of his.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Thank you, first, for indulging me in that last post. I'm talking about the one with the totally unscientific holiday assvice for the Newly Knocked Down. It was a weird and new endeavor for me, even a bit scary, trying to write that post. So I thank you wholeheartededly for playing along.
That post was kind of an experiment, really. Here's what writers and politicians and anyone else with a public persona seem to do: they use words, pictures, fashion, music, and other things to create an identify for themselves. It's like: if you walk the gangsta walk, you become a gangsta. If you talk the politican talk, you become a politican. Likewise, I thought if I said the precise right thing in the precise right way, I could become - literally - someone who knew what she was talking about. Imagine that! All I had to do was act the part, and BOOM - I'd be one of those wise, crusty old KuKd veterans with something marvelously insightful to say to my "younger" flock of fledgling dead-baby'ers.
I should say up front that when I wrote that post, it wasn't my intent to fool anyone. Those were honest things that I was thinking and feeling. They were things I wished I could go back in time and say to myself, frazzled and shellshocked person that I was 2.5 years ago. Things I would say to our future daughter-in-law, if we have a daughter-in-law, if she - by chance - got knocked down. They came to me from wherever it is in our hearts where newfound knowledge begins to form, and crytstalizes into something we're certain of.
But it got me wondering, with KuKd, is there...I mean....is there really and truly any advice, assvice, whatEVer, that is appropriate to give to the Newly Knocked Down or the chronically Trying-To-Conceive, both of which I percieve to be particularly vulnerable groups? And are there, in fact, some people who legitimately have more advice to give than others, simply by virture of their experience? And what makes me think I am, or could be, one of those people - any more than any other person of average intelligence out there?
During the lowest points of my KuKd days, there wasn't much that anyone could say to make me feel better, except for when my mom said: "you'll get through this." I believed her, and needed to hear that. But moreover, I remember going to a support group and leaving in a state of irritation, because the facilitator kept cutting everybody off to slather us with assvice. She had lost her baby son about twenty years earlier, so I suppose she had a right to tell us how everything would/should be, and what we should all be doing. But man, did that lady piss me off. I vowed right then to never be that person if I encountered a Newly Knocked Downer - the talking head that interrupts just hear my own obnoxious voice, pelting everyone compulsively with un-asked-for advice.
So in that last post, going back and reading it, I began to wonder: did I just break that vow? Crap. If I did, I'll be resting my embarassed head on Kevin's chest in front of our now-working fireplace tonight for comfort (actually no - the gigantic tumor-like appendage coming off my torso keeps me from lying in any kind of intimately girly pose with my husband, the poor guy).
It makes me wonder about my role in the public sphere, and how I might shape this blog into something more beneficial for the Newly Knocked-Down than merely, "check out this olive-oil bath I just took!" I wonder if I can give something back to the world that's truly useful, or if that would only come off as arrogant and irritating and saturated with unwanted assvice. Blegh.
* * *
There's also this, perhaps more pressing immediate issue.
This past week, I've been trying to write the final two pages of my book manuscript, and I keep hitting a brick wall of writers' block. This waiting-to-be-written section is essentially supposed to be a teensy-weensy, tongue-and-cheek advice section for pregnancy/infant loss. It's called, for now: "Appendix: Field Notes for the Newly Knocked Down."
Now, it's the worst feeling to sit in front of a blank Microsoft Word document, cursor blinking at me expectantly, and be literally unable think of a single solitary thing to say. Even after I go clip my toenails, pet my dog, eat a pickle, do some jumping-jacks, and pee a few inches of pee into the toilet, the words STILL don't come to me.
Which is why I wrote that last blog post. I felt the words were there in me, the advice-like things I wanted to say to the world - just a few of them. I just wanted to try out this particular persona and see if I could say such things in a serious way, without annoying myself to pieces. Could I write something that I myself would have looked at through fresh, tear-soaked eyes a few years ago and felt just a teensy bit better, not worse? Just writing it was a good exercise, because the very next day, the words started coming to me like a flood - and BANG - I began typing out that last section of my book manuscript like a keyboardist on speed. Ahhh, relief.
Maybe, just maybe (warning: I'm really pulling this part out of my ass, so bear with me), we all have a responsibility on our blogs, websites, books, cocktail party conversations, to give back to those "fledgling KuKd newbies" by telling them what we know in our hearts, in as non-intrusive and non-annoying way possible. I mean, those things that we ourselves wished we had known back in our lowest of low days. If there's a silver lining in all this, perhaps it's just that: when we go through traumatic shit, we learn. When we contribute what we learn to the general pool of knowledge, we help others. Some people, like Cara and Stirrup Queen - are at a point in their lives where they're ready to help others who are still just trying to survive the worst. Maybe my time for that is now.
Or, maybe there's no place for real advice in the land of KuKd and IF: perhaps it's all about how we find our own way, following our instincts and muddling through.
Oh, it all sounds so hippy-happy, doesn't it? Then again, 'tis the season to look for silver linings...or in the case below, aliens flying inside of silver linings (seriously, doesn't that one cloud look weird??)
Friday, October 31, 2008
I'm not sure if today's post relates to letting go of my bananas, but I feel that it might in some weird abstract way. At some point, I decided to follow these two rules of getting rid of stuff:
1) If you haven't worn it in a year, you don't need it.
2) If it now hangs baggy on your arse or gives you muffin top, you don't need it.
So I cleaned out my dresser drawers and closet, pulling out items that met the above criteria, and managed to fill six paper grocery bags with clothes I no longer need (although I'm sure the day when those jeans no longer give me muffin top, as well as the perfect occasion to wear that frumpy button-down pink shirt with the year-old sweat stains in the armpits, is JUST around the corner!)
Six bags of clothes seemed like enough to warrant having a garage sale, so I convinced my neighbor to organize a dual-household sale while K was out of town. In trying to scrounge up other things to sell (we don't have much, having moved like eight thousand times in the past five years), I meandered into the dank-smelling garage. Ours is the old separate kind, really ramshackle wooden shed built in the 1930s. Instinct led me to a particular mountain of stuff in the cobwebby back corner, hidden underneath a black tarp. I hadn't been back there in over a year, and knew exactly what it was. Feeling oddly high, I yanked off the tarp and dragged all of this stuff (in surprisingly good shape!) out into the driveway:
Yes, time to clean out my garage and heart. In my head, I did have the schizophrenic dialogue you can probably imagine:
"Why am I keeping all this shit?"
"There is no Zachary."
"Fine. It's for the next baby, then."
"There might not be a next baby."
"Fine, but what if there is. Why let this perfectly good baby gear go to waste."
"The BOGS said you can't recycle one baby's stuff for the next baby. That's wrong. Get rid of it."
Gaaaahhh! O-kay, already! So on Sunday morning, I put it out with my six bags of old clothes and the rest of my neighbor's stuff, with a "name your own price" sign.
Within minutes, a couple in a beat-up old station wagon pulled up and offered me five bucks for the whole lot of baby stuff. I was like, I'm sorry, FIVE BUCKS?? Add a zero after that five, and it's yours. They laughed and drove away. By the end of the day, half of it was gone - and I left the rest out on the curb with a "free" sign. Boy, that got rid of it in a flash.
Now the part that makes me a human being with feelings, which I sometimes forget I have the right to be. That night, with K still out of town, I woke up in a cold panicky sweat, breathing a mile a minute. I suddenly felt like I'd made the wrong choice, getting rid of everything. I was afraid that I'd acted too impulsively, cleaning out those remnants of my son, and wished I'd kept just a few of those cute onesies, just for future reference. I fell back asleep with my mind ticking away, outlining a plan for getting some of that stuff back - posting an ad on Craigslist and the classifieds: "WANTED: The stuff you took from the curb in front of my house. Bring it back - REWARD!"
But I felt better the next morning, and never followed through on that plan. The thing is, they're things. Just empty, meaningless things. Empty onesies with no baby inside. Still, every so often I wish I'd kept just one, and I wonder who's wearing those things now.
By the way, to end on a more upbeat note, somebody found my site by Googling "getting a bloody nose during fellatio!" I couldn't figure out why on earth those particular...shall we say, graphic search terms draw somebody here, but after a bit of research, I determined it was Shaz's fault (I'll let you ask her about that in person). And more important, is this a common occurrence? Getting a bloody nose during fellatio, I mean. Just some food for thought.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I know, you're like: WTF is that a picture of?!? This is not what you bargained for when you innocently popped over to Knocked Up, Knocked Down for a visit, expecting to see some hot pumpkin azzz.
Let me enlighten you: it's a diagram that supposedly explains what an "image schema" is, the kind of diagram I was forced to look at from time to time as a graduate student in linguistics. The kind of diagram you study for five minutes, realize you still don't get it, look away and think about what lobster thermidore might taste like, look back at the diagram again for another minute, then close your book and go get a tall latte, a bag of salted pita chips, and a copy of OK! Magazine.
Even after finally getting my MA degree, I still don't totally understand what an image schema is, but I THINK it means something like this: the picture - or lump of images - that you think of when you hear a certain word or phrase. Like, for example, SCHOOL: you might picture a book. A desk. A chalkboard. Or maybe an old maid-ish teacher in a tight bun and glasses with thin pursed lips, with a paper airplane hitting her pointy nose.
Here are a few of my current schema.
Barack and Michelle Obama:
John and Cindy McCain:
Miscarriage and Stillbirth:
Thursday, October 23, 2008
One of the instructors I teach with asked me to do a reading from my manuscript for her students. The theme is something academic and literary-sounding, like "Motherhood, Redefined." It's a mind trip to be thought of as a Mom, isn't it? I grapple with this still.
Sometimes, when I'm wearing certain outfits, I literally feel like I fit the Mom part. Today, for example, I felt inclined to dress up a tiny bit because I was in charge of the welcome reception for immigrant/refugree students, so I sported brown corduroy jacket, hoop earings, a crimson scarf and shoes with heels. There's something about heels and a businessy jacket that remind me of something that a Mom would wear. You know, what she'd be wearing when she stopped by the daycare to pick up her kid after work.
I totally pictured myself as that mom, popping into the college daycare center, crouching down as my kid came running into my arms. His face would be all stained with chocolate pudding (gawd, at least I would HOPE it was pudding). He'd love my sparkly hoop earings and brown hair, and try to pull on both and put them in his mouth, and I wouldn't mind it so much.
On the other hand, there are the many times when I'm lounging around the house, watching the John Stewart Daily Show in sweats and a tank top, having not flossed three days in a row due to pure laziness, and occasionally belching loudly just to get K's attention. Doing decidely unmotherly things, like gathering clumps of hair that fall out in shower (does anyone else out there lose PROFUSE amounts of hair in the shower? Like, to the point where you wonder how on earth you can possibly not be bald at this point?) and - rather than doing the responsible thing and throwing it in the trash - just sticking it in the corner of the tub for somebody to deal with later (that somebody would be K, of course). That's not something a decent Mom would do.
Anyway, back to "Motherhood, Redefined." I'm still not sure what I should read just yet in my colleague's class. Maybe I'll read about the silver necklace I still wear - it has ZACHARY embossed on it(god, I love any excuse to use the word embossed, don't you!). I must feel motherly to some degree, for I haven't taken it off once since my friend KD sent it to me for Mother's Day. Not even when I'm belching and leaving hair all over the bathtub.
Monday, September 1, 2008
I need to add "Laugh" and "Write" to my KuKd Healing Strategies and here's why.
As some of you already know, I decided at some point that losing a four-month fetus and a Real Baby consecutively is so horrid and shocking that it's just plain hilarious. Even funnier is how the human brain works, the ways in which we process grief and loss, the weird-ass things we do and say and think when faced with unthinkable trauma. Now there's a topic that "hasn't been sufficiently mined for laughs," as my friend Hardin puts it.
So sometime during a positively crotch-bruising horseback ride about four months after I'd expelled my own dead child, it hit me: I have a story, and I need to write a book. Not just any old boo-hoo book, but a humorous memoir of pregnancy and infant loss.
I was rather frightened by my own idea, which seemed - and still seems - incredibly dangerous. If I am to tell my story fairly, I have to do so with brutal honesty. But what if I ruin myself by revealing my deepest, darkest, most make-fun-of-able KuKd thoughts and behaviors? What if I offend people by making light of dead babies? What if I'm a bad writer? What if I get rejected? What if my story sucks? What if I don't even have a story?
But I knew that digging into this wretched topic in search of humor was my calling, because it is, in fact, my nature to laugh so hard at life that I just about pee myself (which, in fact, nowadays I sometimes do, thanks to that dead baby and the serious muscle-weakening that accompanied him). And so I created a new Microsoft Word folder entitled "Monica's Prego Loss Book," saved it on the desktop or our beat-up laptop, and started writing and writing and writing.
And, 50,000 words into my memoir and nearing the point of submitting it to some agents, it IS a roller coaster ride, peppered with ego-shattering moments. Take last month, for instance, when I read what I thought was an okay chapter out loud to some friends, and afterward got nothing but blank stares and a suggestion that I might be overusing the word "compelled." That's it - not a single "wow" or "that's great" or "I like the part where" blah-blah. Nothing. Were they offended by the part about wearing my sports bra on my first day of work, just in case my body decided to go into spontaneous dairy mode during our faculty meeting? Were they shocked speechless by the sheer badness of my writing? Kevin did tell me later that it "wasn't one of my best," which I guess made me feel better. Sort of.
But then, I have moments like this. Today, a little piece of my book - a tiny little window into my story - got published in Mamazine. It's the first time I've ever been published, and it gives me hope and courage to keep going with my book project. For if people think it's OK for me to intermix the topics of stillbirth and farting in the same written piece, then I'm figuring it's kosher to keep writing my book. And if I'm sent to hell for daring to find humor in dead babies and fetuses, well, so be it. I'm just going to keep puking out that story until it's told, and hope that somebody believes in me enough to publish it.
Here I am, naked and exposed, and it feels good! A feel-good day. My story is called "Motherly:" http://www.mamazine.com/Pages/feature120.html
Whatever your story may be, write it down. And if you're feeling brave, put it out there for others to read. Trust me - it's a cool feeling.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
The other day, I was trying to think of a new vocabulary word for the unique stain of booby-milk, frozen pea juice, and melted ice that forms on a woman's sports bra after stillbirth (whoever can guess what frozen pea juice and ice have to do with booby milk gets a dollar).
That got me thinking, wouldn't it be cool to have a KuKd/TTC Word of the Week, generated by reader suggestions and/or my own twisted mind? There are so many nouns and verbs affiliated with KuKd/TTC (or any traumatic event, for that matter) that there aren't words for, from the act of obsessively screwing as much as possible during that one little window of so-called fertility, to the snot-soaked ball of disintegrated mush that Kleenex turns into after a bout of hardcore bawling. Somebody needs to think of what to call these things!
Of course, language-making endeavor will mean potentially coming up with 52 words - yikes - over the course of a year (not that I won't have gotten so completely burned out by this topic and deleted the entire blog during a moment of over-caffeinated insanity by August '09). Nonetheless, I thought I'd give it a try, for even if it doesn't happen every single week, it will still serve to make the English language a bit richer.
And if you ever think of any others you'd like to suggest and define, post a comment or shoot me an e-mail, and I'll add your word to our official democratic KuKd/TTC Dictionary.
To kick it off, I thought I'd start with a word that my regular readers already know, but that's worth reinforcing with a quick definition and related musing. Our first KuKd/TTC Word of the Week is:
Stands for for Books, Grief Counselors and Social Workers. Stereotypical BOGS (or BOGS book author) is a middle- to upper-middle class white woman, usually in the 45-60 age range, who is unlikely to have gone through what you're going through, but acts like she has. Enjoys giving unsolicited advice and getting involved in your drama, kind of like an obnoxious mother-in-law, and chose this profession for that very reason.
Things NOT to say to BOGS (followed by what BOGS will be thinking in response) if you happen to be at a counseling session or support group:
"I'm fine." (BOGS: No, you're not! Your life sucks and you're depressed! When are you going to realize that!)
"I'd like to try again for a baby as soon as possible." (BOGS: No, no, no. You can't say hello to a new baby until you've said goodbye to this one. Rookie mistake. So come back after you've cried eight buckets of tears, eaten a bottle of sleeping pills and nearly slit your wrists, and listened to some depressing Marilyn Manson tune about how much life just blows. THEN we can talk about you trying again.)
"That stillbirth thing? Oh yeah, I'm still trying to get over it." (BOGS: No you're not! You are not, nor will you ever be, 'over it' - and how dellusional of you for even thinking such a thing. People don't get over dead babies, so you'd better get used to being miserable for the rest of your life, honey.)
"I'm coming to terms with not being a mom." (BOGS: WHAT??!? You ARE a mom, and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise! Never mind that you don't have a actual CHILD to take care of. Minor detail. You're a mom, you're a mom, you're a mom.)
Again, shoot me a comment if you have a word or definition with accompanying story, if applicable, to add.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
K and I returned yesterday from our five-week trip, essentially marking the one-year anniversary our son's dirth (birth + death - what else is one supposed to call it? somebody think of a new word!)
A year ago today, things were just different. To feed my addiction to socializing, I had founded the Seattle Urban Expecting Parents Meet-Up group, which has now grown to 130 couples and changed hands, and I was dragging K to prego-couple outings left and right. I was expecting a baby in less than two months, and had mapped out kid-friendly bars in the area, which is key. Tebow didn't exist (gasp!), which is now unfathomable to me, and we didn't know Tom and Corinne, our dear couple-with-no-kids friends in Seattle, which is equally unfathomable. And there certainly wasn't any of my favorite drinky-drink in the fridge. Golly gosh, it's astonishing to me how suddenly and dramatically our entire personal universes can change, just like that!
Speaking of shifting personal universes, have you ever undergone a traumatic event, and then later had somebody else go through the same thing, placing you suddenly in the role of consoler instead of needer? It's a trip, let me tell you.
A very excellent Hoard-able Friend Who Shall Not Be Named (per the "H" in KuKd Survival Tactics ) just had a two-month miscarriage. :-( This put me in the cosmically strange position of, for the first time since becoming a KuKd Tribeswoman myself, being the one to grieve for a close friend and her lost fetus, of the little person that fetus would have become, of juxtaposing my own experience with hers, and of having to think of what to say. And to my relief, having gone through it myself, thinking of what to say was much easier for me than it would have been two years ago. The words just tumbled out of my brain.
The thing about the KuKd Tribe is that it really isn't that cool - not something anyone WANTS to belong to. It's not like, call 1-800-PREG0-NO today, pay your membership fees and get a free commemorative KuKd brooch! Operators are standing by to take your call! So, I really can't say to this hoard-able friend of mine something like, "welcome to the club!"
I suppose it could be considered a desirable club, like a club of survivors. A tribe of strong people. I could change KuKd to KuKdS, to include the survivors aspect of it, but that sounds a bit too rah-rah feel-goody to me.
OK, off to complete one of my new resolutions from my last post: eat some bacon.
PS - K unexpectedly projectile vomited this morning! He thinks it's from the tofu stir-fry I made last night, but I find that doubtful. Isn't tofu like the most benign food ever, besides Cream of Wheat? I think it was from the chicken on Luftansa Airlines.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Yesterday, as K and I were doing a bitchin' nine-hour bike ride from the mountains of Slovakia to the Danube River, I got really tired and hungry and sunburned feeling toward the end. Everything was closed and we couldn't find food, which makes me more crabby than most predicaments. So, to make the time go faster, I did the following inside my brain: 1) had an epiphany; and 2) wrote a poem that had absolutely nothing to do with KuKd.
First, the epiphany: I really want to allow myself to talk about things besides KuKd on this blog, because, as I've mentioned, part of my KuKd Survival Strategy has been to let go and move on. That is, reach a point where I can - and do- have an identity, a personality, a life, beyond KuKd. And I'm pretty dang sure I've achieved that (let's make that our little secret, though, for the BOGS would certainly argue disapprovingly that one NEVER "moves on").
The problem is, I personally don't like it when you think a blog is going to be about one thing and ends up being about something else entirely, or worse, seems to be about nothing in particular. I mean, if I don't see the point of a given blog in like two seconds, I say screw it and go play with Tebow instead. This world is ADD-inducing enough.
But therein lies the dilemma: isn't talking about other things actually related to Kukd, because it's part of the KuKd healing process? Isn't dwelling SOLELY on KuKd rather counterproductive, if not downright irritating? I'm sort of irritating myself with all this KuKd talk. And yet, will talking about other things give my reader ADD?
I'm going to gamble that it's OK for me to touch on other topics, to not connect every single little life experience and observation with stillbirth and miscarriage in some way. And if a few people get ADD from my blog, I wish them well. So there's my epiphany.
Next, the poem, which K wrote on his blog but I'll add here, to kick off my whole not-dwelling-on-KuKd identity transformation in the blogosphere:
Riding through Slovakia, I’m in a famished mood.
The villages are cute and all, but don’t have any food.
I really want a burger with a side of tater tots.
Or a chicken-fried schnitzel, wrapped in bacon, lots and lots.
There’s one little shop that might have food. It’s hard to tell.
But the doors are shut and locked. On a Tuesday? What the hell?
There’s a place across the street with tables and some chairs.
I ask if they have food, but all I get are mean stares.
I rummage through my bag again to see if food is there,
But all I find are breadcrumbs and some dirty underwear.
When we cross the Danube, I’m going to find some meat.
Because only one thing’s certain: southern Slovaks do not eat!
Saturday, August 2, 2008
3 Weeks After KuKd #1: Biking in Canada. What? My crotch can handle this, all while I'm convinced that I have brain cancer AND just delivered a 16-week fetus? Um, okay. I'll believe it when we get there.
3 Months After KuKd #1: Dance Party! Beer plus getting my freak on with K equals happiness. My brain cancer scare is over, for now.
4 months after KuKd#1, visiting with my sister-in-law and nephew. She made a baby; why can't I? I think my ovaries are rotting.
11 months after KuKd #1. Knocked Up Again. Woo-hoo! Ovaries and brain are just fine, and I have a carte blanche to spend unlimited money on groceries at Whole Foods. I am SO over KuKd #1. Sorry little boy fetus.
NO FREAKIN' WAY. KuKd#2. Sorry, but these kinds of things don't happen twice, unless you're like, a serial killer and deserve it. We scatter Zach's ashes at Carkeek Park, and host a brunch afterward. I randomly realize that I accidentally got sundried tomato instead of veggie cream cheese for the brunch, and this disturbs me. Sundried tomatoes taste too much like fruit leather. Then I feel guilty about thinking of something so trival right now. It's your baby's freakin' memorial service Monica. Get over the cream cheese.
4 Months Later: Christmas cookies and wine (yum!) with my non-KuKd mommy friends. Holy Ouch, but I did it! Starting to realize: I'm OK. I think.
4.5 Months Later: Garlic Shrimp in Ecuador - HOLY FREAKIN' YUM. Baby or no baby, this sh*t's good.
7 Months Later: California road trip with both my boys and a hefty supply of $3.99 White Zin, my personal favorite. Starting to write my book on the laptop in the car. Life isn't so bad, really, when you have those anti-motion-sickness wristbands from Walgreen's.
Weetabix Cereal. This awesomely unique cereal got me through lots of hard days. Consists of bricks of flaked, compressed wheat. Learning how to add the exact right amount of milk takes finesse and patience, and after lots of post-KuKd practice, I think I've got it. Very British, with the fancy seal inscribed with something like made in honor of the royal queen or some such thing. How cute to honor your royal ruler like that, on a cereal box of all things.
IN CONCLUSION: Life as a KuKd Tribeswoman is full of ups and downs. These are just a few of the ups that have gotten me to where I am now. Sitting beside my honey in a Slovakian Internet cafe, on our way out to have a beer. With no screaming, poopy-arse kid to stop us.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
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 H.E.A.L.ing - 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, June 30, 2008
There is one important HEALing strategy that I neglected to mention in my four cornerstones of KuKd survival: developing and fostering an addiction to (or obsession with) something that feels good, and reveling in it. I'm sure it fits into HEAL somewhere - perhaps part of Embrace your childless self? Oh, how I love vices! I picked up plenty of them after what I shall hereby refer to as the Ultimate Shitty Event (that is, losing little Zachary), and I'll go into those later. For now, I'll just talk briefly about one in particular that's come to dominate my life:
TEBOW, aka Baby Boo, Scruffy Boy, Widdle Boy.
Cats and dogs have always made me sneeze and wheeze. But six weeks after the Ultimate Shitty Event, I was so full of pent-up mothering energy that I felt I might seriously start carrying a stuffed teddybear around at work and talking to it. I really didn't want to be that person. So I decided not to be allergic anymore, and told K that I needed a little furry friend to nurture. K was reluctant, for we've always said that a pet wouldn't fit in with our cram-clothes-in-a-backpack-and-catch-the-next-flight-to-wherever mode of travel. But I SO didn't care at that point. So K finally agreed to it (that's one nice thing about baby loss; as the woman in the relationship, it's a really prime time to get exactly what you want), and we wrote a ridiculous, embarrassing $550 check for puppy with an even more ridiculous, embarrassing namesake: a Westipoo. No, he wasn't a poor, abused creature from the shelter. There was no higher good associated with this transaction, nothing progressive-minded or benevolent about it. It was just an exchange of goods and services for the pure, selfish, I-don’t-give-a-shit purpose of indulging myself in puppy love.
Not much different from buying meth on the street, really.
Whether you are a KuKd Strong Momma or Inquisitive Guest, any other addictions or life-saving indulgences you care to add here?