Monday, August 11, 2008

Moving wrong along?

The boy is going to be attending a Montessori program starting this fall. It is pretty costly and I can't help but wonder if we could have pulled this off if Eva had survived. Almost certainly, we could not. We're starting to look at houses a little closer to this school and to work, another prospect that would have been both dimmer and more necessary with our third child living.

While most of my brain recognizes that the boy is one of the children who did survive and thus deserves to be able to take advantage of opportunities that arise, there is a small part of my brain, dedicated to the proposition that all children are created equal, that is tortured just a little by the fact that we're making this lemonade. I feel disloyal to my girl. If I had the choice, I might choose differently. I don't have the choice.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Oh no! A budding fashionista?!?

The girls would have been 17 months old today. We're very proud.

To celebrate the occasion, the girl showed off her exploding vocabulary (which now includes yes, no, ball, duck, bye-bye -- all exclaimed with passion and emphasis -- if not the correct pronunciation) with a new word. As we were getting ready to leave this morning, I took the girl to the living room and she clearly anticipated my intentions because she pointed to her bin of footwear and exclaimed "Sthoo!" which could only mean one thing. Baby needs a new pair of ... [word of the day]

This I [Don’t] Believe: The disempowering nature of “bootstrap” cliché

(I wrote this and submitted it to This I Believe. It was not selected for broadcast and I am okay with that.)

Whenever life challenged me as a child and young person, I went to my closet of “go-to” aphorisms and wrapped myself tightly in one or more, depending on the situation, the depth of its chill. Through every setback or disappointment, I would bury my face in the softness of “it is for the best” or “everything happens for a reason” or the truly heroic, full body cashmere sweater of “that which doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.” Those cloaks stood me in good stead until now.

Then last year I watched one of my identical twin daughters die in the aftermath of 2 open-heart surgeries. It was the last and worst trauma in a very complicated pregnancy and a doozy of a short life. Over a year later, I keep trying to go to that closet but none of those platitudes fit anymore. They’re garish and abrasive in the light of the “new normal” as bereaved mothers call it. I can’t take comfort in “think of what you DO have” and won’t even touch “well, at least you still have one.”

But it is “that which doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger” that I keep going back to, keep trying to use to cover the rawness of my new skin. I want it to be so. A little strength would come in very handy, in fact. I want a heroic happy ending wherein the devastated but persevering mother goes on to channel her agony into something that makes the world a better place. The problem is that I am not stronger, not yet anyway, and all I have to show the world thus far is this essay. So, for now at least, I am donating a closet full of easy-care clichés for something more minimal.

The new garments, the ones that seem to fit after shock and anguish have abated somewhat are not as thick and not as soft, nothing ever will be again. But though the chill still passes through, one can find a little warmth in “be as well as possible,” “I am thinking of you” and most importantly “I have not forgotten her.”

Friday, April 25, 2008

Long in the Tooth

I'm 34 today. Gettin' oooooooooold. But it's cool. I have the rest of my life to fight off aging, having retired my uterus for the duration.

I am and have been to varying degrees of success (and failure! I am the rare woman who's actually managed to GAIN weight since delivering the girls) trying to get back to my fighting weight. I am a long way off. I guess an unexpected consequence of having babies and losing baby is that I have almost no vanity left. Who cares about cute clothes and saggy deflated body parts under the circumstances. It's a little freeing, at least. I care to the extent that D has gotten into very good shape and I want to hold up my end of the bargain, but clearly the circumstances are a little different for me. Nevertheless, a good restrictive diet seems to be in order and will add the benefit of just a little bit of self-torture, which is called for!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Loss Begets Loss

Today is the original due date for the twins - one year later, of course. This date is probably not remembered by anyone but me, but it nevertheless looms in my consciousness as a symbol of normalcy, something -- one of the things -- that was lost in all this. The losses mount, the baby, the life itself and the avalanche of things, emotions, relationships, HOPE and POSSIBILITY that suffered unceremonious diminishment and demise along with Eva, who is in a way, eve.ry.thing.

Ironically, that realization (that loss begets loss) is something I've gained, something that has emerged from the vacuum. And it is this understanding that is enabling me (among other things) to make a little modest progress. Credit must given to the wise mothers I've started to meet in the virtual vacuum, which it must be said, is something I had not placed my value in. It is only hard-won humility and utter desperation that brought me to open myself up to others in this way. But in the absence of any other alternatives, I spent the time to find others still coping. I have been impressed and moved by the grace and thoughtfulness I've found on the CLIMB message board, eLimbo. How about that?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lessons Seeped In

A year now and most of the time my brain has been a bowl of pudding. But I think I have learned a couple of small things

1. A sure way to lose friends and alienate people is to mention your dead baby. Grief is inconvenient and unwieldy and you should really try to keep the cover on it. It's not that they don't care. They do, but they want you to get the whole thing over with so everyone can go back to the way things used to be. And didn't they show up for your service? Didn't they graciously accept your misery before you even understood enough about the situation to be miserable? Whose fault is it that you were so in shock for the first months that loss had not yet come to define you, settle into your very bones until long after all the friends and neighbors had packed up and left?

2. Loss is a menacing trickster. One day you may feel the weight lifting ever so slightly, but just as suddenly (and surprisingly) as that feeling appeared, the tractor of trailer of sorrow will hunt you down and level you at full speed.

3. Time is linear but grief is not. Time may heal most wounds but the death of a child is surprisingly immune to this form of treatment.

4. Right after Eva's death, a nurse told me that men and women grieve differently. At the time I thought, "she doesn't know us." Apparently, she does.

5. I thought I cared about my child's "quality of life." I don't. I care about her life period and know that I am no judge of its quality or lack thereof.

6. No matter what choices I made, I would have regrets. Regret is one way of pretending I had some real control or say in what happened. If I could go back and undo or redo, I would only replace my current list of regrets with new ones. This is seemingly the natural course of motherhood.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

At this moment

The surest way to repel people it seems is to tell them that I lost my child and that I'm hurting. Close friends, long-lost acquaintances, my mother -- I am honestly surprised by the roaring silence around me.

Almost a year on, I can almost smell the plastic tubing and the blood. I can feel your warm soft skin, your wisps of hair. There has been nothing worse for me than this feeling. It used to be that I cared about quality of life. Now I only care about life. I would take you in any form. Not that I want you to suffer, but I want you here and I am no closer to peace and understanding, no closer to resolution.

Monday, February 04, 2008

10 months

Dear Eva,

I miss you still. I don't feel as though I can talk to anyone about you without feeling guilty. I'm not sure where I can turn, so I'm turning to you directly. Maybe the energy of you and my love for you have combined somewhere in the universe. If only. Eva, when I see your name, I am paralyzed. Eva, when I think of you, my throat constricts. I am sitting at my desk at work and I cannot do anything but long for you and try not to let that longing crush me.

This weekend, I baked cookies and ran for the first time with your brother and crawled around the floor with your sister, teaching her to walk. We watched the Superbowl (or part of it) together. Every good thing is diminished without you.

This weekend, I kept thinking of our drive to the hospital while you were dying. Your absence is the worst sort of violence.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Big Days

Saturday, January 19th, was a big day for the girl. Her first tooth finally broke through (beating her brother by 7 months). She finally figured out how to crawl forward on her knees to where she'd actually like to go. And, she went to her first Hoyas basketball game. It was not her first sporting event. That was a minor league baseball game in September. But our annual Hoyas game is a tradition that we enjoy. And she lasted almost through the whole game. We have yet to make it to the bitter end...

The girl started daycare full time today. After weeks and weeks of looking for a nanny, we finally accepted the fact that we needed to expand our search. We found Ms. E and her home daycare. She has 3 other kids -- her daughter and two siblings. I hope the girl does well there, but I suspect that we will be the disease vector, not the other kids. We'll just have to see. I hope perhaps we make it until the girl can go to Win.wood. Otherwise, we may have to go back to the drawing board.

Life is for the Living

And today, the boy marks the end of his 4th year on "Earf," as he would say. He's a smart and funny kid. He is high-strung, energetic and naughty. His memory is crazy. And he's quite intuitive. Last night he was hitting his head a little with the heel of his hand, as (I admit sheepishly) I have done out of frustration a few times. Yes, I am totally batshit, but that's another post. We asked him about what he was doing and he said, "Mom does this when she's very upset." and we probed him further for how he feels about that. He replied, "I feel very sorry for Mom."

Well, last year the boy's birthday party was a few weak cupcakes eaten in my hospital room and if that doesn't suck, I don't know what does. So this year....

Fancy-pants cupcakes from a bakery in a superhero theme at school. Thereafter, we'll be painting t-shirts. He will then be taken out to dinner at a restaurant of his choice. He chose Red Ro.bin. At some point, he'll get his present from us, a digital camera and when we get home, he'll hopefully see a big box on the doorstep -- a new blue electric guitar. And, on Saturday, we'll have a dinosaur-themed party at home. Unfortunately it will be mostly grown-ups and babies, but so be it. I hope it will be a birthday worth keeping in that steel-trap of a brain he's got.

We're all about onward and upward.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

You don't know the half of it

Everything everywhere Eva-related can stop me [dead] in my tracks. I'm not "out" at work yet as a grieving mother. The truth is that for everyone but me it is old news. At least, that's how it feels. Even with my mother, on whom I have leaned so heavily, the welcome is worn too thin to hold this weight. Even my own mother has told me in not so many words that it's time to get on with life as it is.

So making it news, disclosing to new people that Eva lived and lives still in me is difficult, if not impossible.

So when a new coworker told me that she does not envy me in my working motherhood, I couldn't help but think, you don't know the half of it. I am trying to mother a dead girl.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Your Eyes and Mine

My mother says I'm torturing myself by not letting go. Maybe that's true. But I keep finding new ways to unfold the soul of you that I carry. I keep raking through new and old forms of grief and I don't want to let you go. I want to finally peel back the covers to the place where you are and I cannot accept that it doesn't exist. It is harder to live without you than it was 6 months ago. I didn't know when you died that I would never see your real eye color. I didn't realize that we 5 people, my precious family were never physically together. I never had that precious moment of holding both my babies together.

Monday, I realized that I have a photo of you on my phone, which would be lost if the phone were ever lost. So, I e-mailed it to myself and I found that in that photo, your precious eyes were open. It is probably the only photo of you with your eyes open. I want to dissolve into its pixels.

Today I saw an article that said that the US ranks last amongst industrialized nations in healthcare. I wanted to read it but couldn't. All I could think of was you. Today I also learned that a coworker's daughter is named Evelyn. I immediately thought....Evalyn.

My mom always tries to suggest that you would not have been healthy if you'd lived. NONSENSE! In my heart, you would have been the beauty and light that the girl is. It is nothing short of cruelty and misery that has taken you from us. And anyway, maybe it's not logical but I would do anything to have you in any form. I didn't think that before, but ...

I wonder what the purpose of your life was and what good will come of it. Part of me thinks that nothing good can come of your death. But you did live for a time and nothing bad can come of that.

Monday, January 07, 2008

9 months and counting

The further from Eva's death I get, the harder it seems to become reconciled to it. Yesterday was one of the worst days I've had. I feel as though I will slowly become engulfed by despair. I am struggling mightily with the two who remain, with work, with managing a family and a house and trying to earn my keep, but no matter. She's who I want.

Eva, what I wouldn't do to have you back. I finally sent myself a photo of you that I took on my phone. Your eyes are open and I am afraid I might lose the phone and thus lose forever the one picture of your open eyes that I think we have. I've never felt so close to the edge of breaking.